Sharing the mysteries of space

By Roger Moroney

Space, especially the southern skies as seen from Hawke's Bay, is a landscape of colour and wonder and a newly naturalised Kiwi is keen to show local skywatchers how to capture it.

Stephen Chadwick was born in the UK, but moved out to New Zealand and settled in Manawatu about nine years ago and became a Kiwi earlier this year, and is amazed by the clear southern skies downunder.

Next Saturday at the Holt Planetarium he and another leading astrophotographer and skywatcher, Ian Cooper, will be showing images from an acclaimed book they have produced.

"I first got interested in astronomy when I moved over here. I moved to a rural property under very dark skies and was blown away by the view of the night sky from here," Mr Chadwick said.

He began photographing the night sky in 2007 and has gone on to record a string of images which Hawke's Bay Astronomical Society president Gary Sparks said were "top shelf stuff".

Seeking out and recording the colour and mystery of deep space was something he was happy to share with Bay skywatchers.

"It is always satisfying to see the shape and colour of an object that emerges that you have never seen a picture of before."

Mr Chadwick said with the combination of a reasonably modest telescope and a standard digital camera people could capture good images.

He uses three telescopes along with an "everyday" digital camera as well as one dedicated to "astrophotography".

Hawke's Bay was fortunate that it had natural light-free rural expanses perfect for getting shots of space, although even city dwellers could still get a stunning snap.

"Even in the centre of cities you can photograph the brightest objects, because you need shorter exposures to capture them, and using some specialist filters you can even image some of the fainter ones."

Mr Chadwick said he spent six months compiling photographs for a book about what lies in the southern skies and it received an astronomical thumbs-up.

"Sir Patrick Moore was a friend of a friend and he was very interested in the book as it was the first one dedicated to astroimaging the southern sky. We were very fortunate in that he wrote a forward for it shortly before he died."

He said images could take exposures from a few seconds to half and hour, and for longer ones photographers need to employ a moving platform to compensate for the earth's turning.

As well as startling visuals he said his presentation would also be an audio one - the videos of his images from deep space would be set to music.

His advice for Hawke's Bay people curious about the great space above was to simply look up, and enjoy the view ... more so through good magnification and lenses.

Chadwick and Cooper will stage their presentation at the Holt Planetarium at 7pm next Saturday, with a gold donation entry at the door.


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