Newsmaker: Alasdair Jackson

Not only did we have the eclipse of the sun this week but Nasa gave amateur Rotorua astronomers the opportunity to spot the International Space Station as it flew across the sky. This week's Newsmaker is Rotorua Astronomical Society secretary Alasdair Jackson.

Tell us about yourself.

I was brought up in a Christian family and have one sister. My interests are astronomy, trains, cycle touring, mountainbiking and my wife who I  recently married.

How did you get involved in astronomy?

My dad was into bird watching and when he used his telescope to show me the night sky I was hooked when I saw the planet Jupiter with its cloud bands and moons as well as Saturn and its rings and the double star of Alpha centuri. I like to look at the night sky there are so many objects out there to look at like galaxies, nebulas globular star clusters.

What's your role with the Rotorua Astronomical Society?

My roll in the Rotorua Astronomical Society is treasurer which involves keeping account of all the club's income and expenses. I'm also the secretary which involves dealing with incoming mail and passing it on to the right person. I also help during viewing sessions for schools and so on.

What's your day-to-day job?

I work as a waiter at the Holiday Inn.

Have you got to see the International Space Station this week?

I did not see the international space station this week but have seen it on previous occasions. There is also a tool kit which follows in orbit behind it, one of the astronauts dropped it from the space station.

How often do you watch the stars?

Some times I go out a few nights in a row, other times I can go months without observing.

What is the most exciting thing you have seen in the skies?

Seeing the polar cap on Mars back in 2003 when the planet was at is closest to earth for 59,602 years and won't be very close again until 2287AD. However, it will be reasonably close in 2018.

Are there any misconceptions about astronomy and if so what are they and how would you dispel them?

Some people don't believe the moon landings were real after a Fox TV programme screened on TV3 back in September 1, 2001 claiming the landings were a hoax. The images of the first moon landing was fuzzy. The

reason for this was mission managers were more interested in a successful mission than fiddling around with

cameras and catering to the media, whom many considered a distraction. The astronauts were of similar mind. The television camera that recorded Neil Armstrong's small step was literally an after thought and the poor picture was mainly due to inadequate available signal. The video was improved on later missions.

No stars in the moon's black sky. Of course there weren't, the photos taken by the astronomers were taken in daylight and at such fast shutter speeds no stars are going to appear no matter what color the sky is.

Tell us three things about yourself that most people wouldn't know.

I have cycled from Papakura to Cape Paliser.

I have invented a board game with my friend Brian and sold about 175 of them so far.

I have never been to Greenland.



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