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Star Field” opens up the Universe

November 11, 2019 November 2019 No Comments

Star Field astronomy centre and observatory complex _ the first major new dark sky viewing facility built near Martinborough _ has opened for night sky business.

Star Field Martinborough founder John Whitby said his aim is to share the local dark sky experience “with the public, other astronomers and budding astronomers.”

“I want to promote astronomy _ and this location (at Ruakokoputuna, 10 minutes from Martinborough Square) was chosen for its great dark skies and its proximity to urban centres,” he told The Martinborough Star.

The complex includes a roll-off roof dome with three Dobsonian computer-controlled telescopes for public viewing, and two separate domes for deep sky viewing, one of which has high-value imaging equipment to capture images of the deep sky in colour. The other is to capture live video images.

“I intend to broadcast those video images (of the Martinborough sky) world-wide through various channel providers (like nightskynetwork.com),” he said.

Visitors to Star Field will be treated to an evening of star gazing by astronomy guides who will take them on a journey through space and time.  Information on the science of stars, importance of constellations, viewing the sky, planets and solar system and learning to read the stars using celestial navigation will all be part of each evening, led by an expert astronomy guide.

Telescopes will help people delve back further in time by viewing the deep sky, exploding stars, galaxies and globular star clusters _ “the light from which has taken millions of years to travel to us.” 

Whitby explained the Ruakokoputuna site has pristine skies with exceptionally low light pollution, excellent topography (land forms) and a dry climate, all of which gives exceptional sky viewing.

The  Wellington Astronomical Society is negotiating with Star Field to put up a five-metre observatory dome to house a 24-inch research telescope at the site which will be remotely controlled from Wellington.

“That’s for Wellington Astronomical Society’s research programme use and for education use in schools,” he noted. Some private individuals were also “looking to erect personal observatories for star-gazing. These facilities will be able to use the area free _ to promote astronomy.” 

It was difficult for astronomers to find a dark sky location “which is consistently available and consistently dark.”

Star Field is working closely with the Wairarapa Dark Sky Association and Martinborough Dark Sky Society to create an international “Gold Standard” dark sky reserve which will eventually include the Wairarapa region from south coast to north of Masterton.

Wairarapa Dark Sky Association has been granted $100,000 by the government’s Provincial Growth Fund to help develop a financial study to support its Dark Sky Reserve accreditation bid.

Over Labour weekend, the group hosted International Dark Sky Association executive director Ruskin Hartley and programme director Adam Dalton on a tour of the region’s dark sky projects.

Photo caption: Photo: Stephen Chadwick

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