Dannevirke's Mark Redward has always been fascinated by the stars and planets and the appearance of Venus, in partnership with Jupiter, in our night sky has been the icing on the cake for the amateur astronomer.
Mr Redward, a member of the Horowhenua Astronomical Society, had hoped for a grandstand view of the two bright planets from the back of his farm last Wednesday night.
"It was clear up until 6pm, then the cloud rolled in," he said. "Venus will continue to get brighter and brighter before it goes down over the horizon and we'll next see it as the morning star."
Dannevirke stargazers have been able to catch glimpses of Venus and Jupiter to the west of town, just above the Ruahine Ranges on clear nights. Venus, the brightest planet and third-brightest sky object overall (after the sun and moon), has been the closest to the giant planet Jupiter in late June and early this month. At their closest, Jupiter and Venus are about a moon diameter apart. In our skies, Venus sets about three hours after sunset this month but, by mid-August, it will be gone from our evening sky, passing between us and the sun on August 15.
Mr Redward took his sons to catch sight of Halley's Comet in the 1980s north of Dubbo in Australia.
"We were going to an observatory, but instead decided to watch with our binoculars," he said. "It was a fizzer because we could hardly see it all."
Hooked on the night sky, in 1987 Mr Redward went to an auction of telescopes at Dunbar Sloane in Wellington.
"All the talk was of the Celestar 8 telescope, but I didn't think my pockets were deep enough for that, so I bid for and got, a long telescope for $500," he said. "But then the Celestar 8 came up and the auctioneer asked 'how much?' I quietly said $1000, but bid $500. There were a couple of $200 bids and then it was mine."
At the auction, Mr Redward met Frank Andrews, curator of the Carter Observatory in Wellington.
"He advised me to purchase the accessories for the telescope at the auction," he said.
"When I arrived back home, my kids were excited as they discovered all the boxes in the car, but I wasn't in my wife's good books. I'd spent the $2200 which was going to pay for a trip to the United Kingdom."
Mr Redward said the highlight of the year for the society is Stellarfest, or the Astrophotography weekend on August 14-16 at the Foxton Beach Bible Camp.
"This is a wonderful event and I went last year," he said.
"It's a chance for observing, talks and chit-chat in front of a warm fire and we have some stellar speakers, including Professor Paul Delaney of York University, Toronto, and Dr Peter Eisenhardt, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The general public can attend too."