DAVID HILL LDR
Tamzin Godfrey, 10, of Kaikōura, has been learning astrophotography.
Kaikōura school children are capturing images of the cosmos, as the community plans for dark sky sanctuary status.
A new group, Kaikōura Astronomers, has been introducing the local community to astrophotography thanks to community support.
Established as an offshoot of the Kaikōura Dark Skies Trust, which is lobbying for dark sky sanctuary status, the group has been gifted a new telescope.
Volunteer Brian Horsfall said the telescope was popular with local school children.
‘‘We plan to make this telescope available to the community in Kaikoura by having stargazing sessions and school visits.’’
The telescope – a Unistellar eVscope 2 used for astrophotography – worked by capturing the light of distant objects in space and converting the data to an image on a tablet or computer.
A tablet or cellphone operated the telescope using wifi, by sending the co-ordinates of the object you want to photograph.
Kaikōura Astronomers was established to promote astronomy in the community, while the Kaikōura Dark Skies Trusts worked on its application to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) for dark sky sanctuary status.
Destination Kaikōura, a collaboration between the Kaikōura District Council and local tourism operators, gifted the telescope, while the Kaikōura Lions donated some tablets.
Te Kura o Hāpuku, north of Kaikōura, also supported the initiative by allowing the group to hold open nights on its school grounds.
Horsfall said the students were no strangers to using technology in their learning. Hāpuku students used the internet to capture their own image of Matariki via a telescope in New Mexico, United States.
‘‘They selected the telescope, programmed the schedular, and downloaded the resulting image,’’ he said.
‘‘Being in a small school does not limit their interests or abilities and access to the new telescope will encourage their learning.’’
Kaikōura District Council chief executive Will Doughty said the trust hoped to get its dark sky sanctuary application into the IDA by the end of the year.
The council was also helping the trust to prepare a plan change to the Kaikōura District Plan to meet the IDA’s requirements.
‘‘They are keen to run the draft by us to make sure they have everything covered.’’
Kaikōura is doing everything they can to protect the Hutton’s shearwater. (First published April 2022)
The plan change will look to adapt the town’s lighting rules and introduce other protections needed to improve Kaikoura’s view of the heavens.
The trust has engaged Kahu Environmental to assist with the private plan change, while funding has come from the council’s discretionary grant and the Government’s Better Off fund.
The process began when Doughty was a manager for the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) alliance, during the earthquake recovery.
Since then, Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency and the council have been installing LED lights, which saved money as well as having environmental benefits, he said.
‘‘There is a lot more work which has been done by the trust since then, but it will be nice to see it through to a successful outcome.’’