Hud­son’s one-man ob­ser­va­tory

Get­ting the most out of a starry, starry night

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KRIS DANDO

Gor­don Hud­son doesn’t need fancy, mod­ern equip­ment to view the night sky – but he has it any­way.

The Ti­tahi Bay res­i­dent has an ob­ser­va­tory in his back yard.

He first set it up in Pukerua Bay be­fore his fam­ily moved to Ti­tahi Bay in 2006.

An in­stru­ment en­gi­neer for Carter Ob­ser­va­tory and pres­i­dent of the Royal As­tro­nom­i­cal So­ci­ety of New Zealand, his pas­sion for look­ing at the stars goes back decades.

‘‘It’s some­thing I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in, right back to my school days,’’ he said. ‘‘ Now I can look at the stars and plan­ets ev­ery night. You’re look­ing back in time. It’s a real thrill.’’

And he does, ev­ery night when it’s clear, with the dome of his ob­ser­va­tory reach­ing five me­tres from the ground.

With plenty of help from his com­puter whiz son, it has all the mod cons, con­trolled by lap­tops, touch screens and map­ping sys­tems.

The ob­ser­va­tory cost $30,000 to put to­gether.

He has four tele­scopes, pow­er­ful cam­corders and still cam­eras that record on to a hefty server all the data he wants.

Saturn was prom­i­nent right now, he said, but Mars was a ‘‘dis­ap­point­ment’’ to view.

‘‘I walk out my back door and up some steps with my cof­fee and sit in a com­fort­able chair. It’s dif­fer­ent from the days when I started do­ing this, but the philoso­phies of read­ing the stars and search­ing the sky re­main the same.

‘‘When ev­ery­thing went dig­i­tal, the skill went out of it a bit, but the en­joy­ment hasn’t.’’

There is plenty of light pol­lu­tion over Porirua – in­clud­ing from the se­cu­rity lights of Ti­tahi Bay North School un­til re­cently – but his mas­sive tele­scope can over­come most ob­sta­cles.

His big­gest thrills are track­ing comets and as­teroids and con­stantly record­ing im­ages.

New Zealand had an ex­cel­lent po­si­tion at the bot­tom of the world for look­ing at the stars, he said.

The sky above Tekapo, in the South Is­land, was named last year as hav­ing the largest ‘‘dark sky re­serve’’ in the world for its clar­ity.

Schools have astron­omy in their NCEA cur­ricu­lum and Mr Hud­son has trav­elled to Greece with a group of Tawa Col­lege stu­dents to the In­ter­na­tional Olympiad on Astron­omy and As­tro­physics.

‘‘The in­ter­est is cer­tainly there, but it’s about keep­ing that level up [in the schools].

‘‘Tawa has a great pro­gramme go­ing, with 20 to 30 stu­dents in­volved, and we hope the Olympiad will spark even more to join astron­omy clubs.’’

Star-gazer: Gor­don Hud­son with his tele­scope, which he built him­self and erected in his back yard.

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