New Zealand and the Beginnings of Radio Astronomy – A Process of Discovery

Miller Goss, Chair of the Scientific Organising Committee, welcomes participants:

More than 60 years ago two events occurred in Australia and New Zealand that had a major impact on the evolution of radio astronomy in the post World War II era. In 1945 a group of Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel were stationed on the Australian island of Norfolk Island. In March 1945 the sun was detected with the 200 MHz radar aerial on Mount Bates. The follow up work on these Type I bursts was organised by Dr Elizabeth Alexander, head of the Operations Research Section of the Radio Development Laboratory, Wellington.

In 1948 John Bolton and Gordon Stanley came to New Zealand as leaders of The Cosmic Noise Expedition to New Zealand- 1948. They visited two sites, Pakiri Hill, near Leigh and Piha. The first identifications of radio sources with a galactic object and external galaxies resulted from these observations at 100 MHz using a sea-cliff interferometer brought from Sydney. At Pakiri Hill the astronomers were hosted by the Greenwood family.

To celebrate these events and the impact they had on the evolution of radio astronomy, a three day conference has been organised: New Zealand and the Beginnings of Radio Astronomy - A Process of Discovery.

Some speakers will elaborate on the process of discovery by discussing the history of astronomical and ionospheric research in NZ in the post war era. Others will highlight several important astronomical discoveries made 50 years ago and the impact these have had for our understanding of the universe. We are very fortunate to have Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell (Oxford) attend and describe the exciting story of the discovery of pulsars.

At the conference we will have the opportunity to meet members of the Stanley and Greenwood families. In addition, Mary Harris, daughter of Elizabeth Alexander, will be a conference speaker.  On 1 February 2013, a plaque will be unveiled in Leigh to commemorate the discoveries of 1948.


WEDNESDAY 30 January

08.30 - 09.00Registration

Opening session

09.00 - 09.30 Opening and welcome

09.30 - 10.30 Bolton-Stanley Cosmic Noise Expedition to New Zealand of 1948 — Miller Goss (NRAO)

Tea break (45 min)

The beginnings (1)

11.15 - 11.45 History of Ionospheric research in NZ and the Norfolk Island Effect— Grahame Fraser (Canterbury)

11.45 - 12.15  My mother Elizabeth Alexander — Mary Harris (London)

12.15 - 12.45  History of the Piha Radar Station – Sandra Coney (Auckland Council)

Lunch (60 min)

The beginnings (2) 13.45 - 14.15 "Enhanced Solar Radiation at 3 Metre Wavelength" from University College Auckland 1948 – Alan Maxwell (Harvard)

14.15 - 14.45 The impact of technological developments during two World Wars on Geophysics and Astronomy— Geoff Austin (Auckland)

14.45 - 15.15 Radio Stars, Radio Galaxies and Quasars - the Cosmic Ray Connection - Ron Ekers (CSIRO)

Tea break (30 min)

50 year anniversary

15.45 - 16.00 50 Years of Quasars - Ken Kellermann and Ron Ekers (CSIRO)

16.00 - 16.30 50 Years of Radio Recombination Lines - Ed Churchwell (Wisconsin)

16.30 - 17.00 50 Years of Kerr Metric for Rotating Black Holes – Roy Kerr (Canterbury)

THURSDAY 31 January


09.30 - 10.15 Reflections on the Discovery of Pulsars- Jocelyn Bell Burnell (Oxford)

10.15 - 10.45 Scientific Impact of Pulsar Research since 1968 – Dick Manchester (CSIRO)

Tea break (30 min)

Instrumentation: past, present and future
11.15 - 11.45 Evolution of Instrumentation for Radio Astronomy since 1960 – Malcolm Sinclair (CSIRO)

11.45 - 12.15 Bernard Mills and the other Australian Discrete Radio Source investigations – Harry Wendt (Sydney)

12.15 - 12.45 You can't Design what you can't Conceive - Bob Frater (ResMed)

Lunch (60 min)

New Zealand perspectives (1)

13.45 - 14.15 Auckland to the Cavendish to Sydney University - A Career in Radio Astronomy – Bruce McAdam (Sydney University) Notes
14.15 - 14.45

New Zealand Contributions to Radar Observations of Meteors: The Solar System Dust Cloud— Jack Baggaley (Canterbury)

14.45 - 15.15 Small Countries in Big Projects: the path to the SKA in NZ  - Melanie Johnston-Hollitt (Victoria University of Wellington)

Tea break (30 min)

New Zealand perspectives (2)

15.45 - 16.15 Development of Astronomy in New Zealand:  a Historical Perspective - John Hearnshaw (Canterbury)

16.15 - 16.45 Microlensing Observations in Auckland: Optical Astronomy in an Urban Observatory - Grant Christie (Auckland Astronomical Society)

16.45 - 17.15 AUT’s Radio Astronomical Observatory at Warkworth — Sergei Gulyaev (AUT)

Closing session17.15 Closing remarks – Ron Ekers and Miller Goss

19.00  Conference Dinner

FRIDAY 1 February

Travel to Leigh and Pakiri Hill. This day will include unveiling the plaque to commemorate the Bolton-Stanley 1948 expedition. The location of the radio telescope at the cliff edge, Pakiri Hill, is known based on the coordinates and the pictures taken by Gordon Stanley.  On the same day we will visit the Warkworth Radio Astronomical Observatory and have lunch at the historic Sawmill Café in Leigh.

We will be back to Orewa by 5pm.  The bus will continue to Auckland for those who wish to be dropped off in the city.

There will be some important events before and after the Conference

TUESDAY 29 January

A public lecture by Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell at AUT's North Shore Akoranga Campus 6.00 pm: “We are Made of Star Stuff”
Abstract: Our bodies contain atoms of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and a number of other elements. How did these atoms come to be in our bodies?  Where did they originally come from? This talk shows that we are indeed made of star dust, that we are children of the stars.

SATURDAY 2 February

Tour from Auckland to Piha site with Sandra Coney as our host. Sandra is an original resident of Piha and has a house at this impressive beach village. We will visit the plaque and also the meagre ruins of the RNZAF radar found by Jordan and Kate Alexander, Sandra Coney and Miller Goss in 2009 and 2011. There will be an opportunity to walk a portion of the Hillary Trail along the cliffs of the Piha coast.  Bring a picnic lunch or support the local café.  Bus will return to Auckland by mid to late afternoon.

Ajit Narayanan
Alan Maxwell
Alison Wicks
Beverley Chessum
Bob Frater
Boris Féron
Bruce McAdam
Delwyn Dickey
Dick Manchester
Dorothy Cooper
Ed Churchwell
Elizabeth Pawsey
Frane Karaman
Garry Tee
Geoff Austin
George Wingate
Grahame Fraser
Grant Christie
Harry Wendt
Hastings Pawsey
Hiroshi Takiguchi
Jack Baggaley
Jocelyn Bell Burnell
John Brooks
John Hearnshaw
John White
Jordan Alexander
Larry Wicks
Leonid Gurvits
Luise Phelps
Mahmoud S. Mahmoud
Malcolm Sinclair
Mary Harris
Miller Goss
Peter Thomasson
Richard Easther
Robert Batchelor
Ron Ekers
Roy Kerr
Sally Greenwood
Sandra Coney
Sergei Gulyaev
Stephen Stanley
Stuart Weston
Teresa Stanley
Tim Natusch
Vladimir Petranovic

Organising Committees

Scientific Organising Committee

  • Miller Goss (NRAO ) – Chair
  • Geoff Austin (UoA)
  • Jocelyn Bell Burnell (Oxford)
  • Sandra Coney (Auckland Council)
  • Phil Diamond (CSIRO)
  • Ron Ekers (CSIRO)
  • Grahame Fraser (UoC)
  • Sergei Gulyaev (AUT)
  • Ken Kellermann (NRAO)
  • Dick Manchester (CSIRO)

Local Organising Committee

  • Sergei Gulyaev (AUT) -- Chair
  • Ajit Narayanan (AUT)
  • Dorothy Cooper (Leigh)
  • Delwyn Dickey (Rodney Times, Leigh, Orewa)
  • Saide Lo (AUT)
  • Tim Natusch (AUT)
  • Patricia Sallis (AUT)
  • Richard Taylor (University of Auckland’s Leigh Marine Laboratory)