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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




Although individuals become prominent in their own right, the general interest in astronomy throughout the community has resulted in the formation of many astronomical societies. Local branches of the Royal Society at Wellington, Nelson, and Dunedin have their astronomical sections. Individual societies have been formed at Auckland, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Hawera, Palmerston North, and Christchurch. In most cases observatories have been built to which the public are invited. Indeed, on the whole, the public has been given exceedingly good attention by the enthusiastic members of these societies. There are three small planetaria at Auckland, Napier, and Christchurch.

The New Zealand Astronomical Society was formed in 1920 with C. E. Adams as president, to act as a national organisation which aimed at a development a little above that of many of the local societies. In 1946 this became the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, and its main functions have been the publication of the journal Southern Stars, and the organisation of observing groups for specialised studies where this has been found possible. The variable star section under F. M. Bateson has attained international recognition. The headquarters of the society are at present at the Carter Observatory Wellington.

No account of New Zealand astronomy would be complete without mention of expeditions organised for solar eclipse observations. Adams represented New Zealand on the Lick Observatory expedition to Australia in 1922, and he himself led an expedition to Niuafaou in 1930. C. B. Michie of Kaitaia organised an expedition to Canton Island in 1937, and I. L. Thomsen led a small expedition to Atafu, in the Tokelau Islands, in 1957. Successful corona photographs were obtained on all occasions. In addition, the following annular eclipses were observed from New Zealand itself in 1925 (Adams) and in 1936 (Michie and Thomsen). Complete accounts of observations of the total eclipse of the sun seen from New Zealand on 9 September 1885 are to be found in the reports of the Lands and Survey Department.