An English import, John has had a passion for the world around us since childhood. Initially interested in volcanoes and geology, he then fell in love with the stars and bought his first telescope to watch Halley’s Comet in 1986. John is currently working as an astronomer, researcher and educator at the Carter Observatory alongside schools, Victoria University and the public to help create a better understanding and appreciation for the stars.
If it’s been a hard day at work and I’m in need of a drink I’ll be at… Probably down at the Green Man Pub having a drink, or two, or three. Also The Ballroom on Courtenay Place is a good spot to head after work.
If you need a slice of culture you can’t go past… Wellington is full of great places to check out like Te Papa and Circa Theatre. There was a Doctor Who concert on earlier this year that I went to with the family where the NZSO performed music from the television series. There was also a Doctor Who exhibition on at Capital E — that was really cool!
My favourite Wellington landmark would have to be… For me, it’s always when you drive down the Ngauranga Gorge, coming down that hill and you turn the corner and Wellington opens up in front of you. That’s a stunning sight — unless there is terrible weather, then it’s not that nice…
I think Wellington’s best-kept secret is… There are lots of great spots to go stargazing. I like to go along the Island Bay coast. On a clear night, that is a beautiful spot to go aurora watching.
The coolest thing I’ve ever seen through a telescope would have to be… In 1994 when Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter! Researchers were plotting the comet’s orbit and realised it was going to crash, so the night of the impact I was up at Carter watching through the telescope. Big black spots, bigger than the planet Earth, were clearly visible crashing into Jupiter! That was the first time something like that had been seen before.
People always assume astrology and astronomy are exclusive… But even some of the most famous astronomers like Galileo and Newton did astrological readings for royalty, as astrology comes from the knowledge of the night sky. For example Mars is the god of war, so if Mars were sitting in our star sign it would mean that there could be trouble brewing. Astronomy is the science behind what is actually going on. So although most scientists don’t believe in astrology, we understand and appreciate how it came about.