Foxton lights up its Matariki stargazing tradition

Published on 05 August 2020

Stephen Chadwick.

It’s probably a tradition that goes back 100s of years, for the people of Te Awahou-Foxton, but this year’s Matariki stargazing event will look deeper into space than ever.

Te Awahou Riverside Cultural Park is hosting the Matariki stargazing event, on Thursday 13 August.

With a video and presentation called ‘A Journey through Our Southern Skies’, Dr Stephen Chadwick takes his audience on a virtual trip into Deep Space. People will go on a journey that has taken Dr Chadwick some 12 years to compile from 1000s of space photographs.

“It’s like imagining that you step into a space ship, while still on earth,” says the astro-photographer from Himatangi. “You look at the sky, for example at a galaxy far, far away… and the video takes you closer. It happens step by step. Until a tiny bright spot in the sky gets bigger, and then lights up huge, draped in psychedelic colours. It’s almost as if you ‘travel’ hundreds of light years through the universe, in a matter of seconds. That way, you ‘come closer’ to the stars than any human ever has.”

Dr Chadwick currently has a ‘Matariki – Deep Space’ exhibition on show in Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom’s gallery, in Foxton which has proven very popular – especially during the school holidays, with many families coming through.

“Matariki is a great occasion to bring people together,” says Community Events Coordinator Melissa Steedman, from Horowhenua District Council.

“Visitors to Dr Chadwick’s exhibition told us they were blown away by his 25 large digital photographs, the colours and sheer size of the nebulas, supernovas and star clusters on show. When they asked for more, we decided to organise a special night, with a video presentation. This will be a great occasion to share some of Dr Chadwick’s otherworldly visuals with a wider audience, hopefully from throughout our region”.

“We’re now taking the next step,” says Dr Chadwick. “We’ll make it all seem even bigger and more real.”

Dr Chadwick has spent countless hours putting his videos together. “What my audience gets to see, are actually collages of numerous pictures, which each took time to photograph. I then morph all those details together, to give people the large-scale overview.”

Dr Chadwick’s video presentation will dazzle everybody for some 45 minutes. After the show, to complete the night. there will be telescopes available outside to get a real life look at the stars as well.

“Astronomers from around the world come to New Zealand to watch the southern skies,” says Dr Chadwick. “Especially those from the northern hemisphere are very jealous of the views we get down here. They can only see a small strip of the Milky Way, whereas we see several times as much.”

“In 2019, we set up our telescopes for the first time next to windmill De Molen, at Matariki, and we attracted a brand new group of keen stargazers of all ages,” says Ian Cooper, from the Horowhenua Astronomical Society.

“People were amazed to actually see the rings of Saturn and the stars of Jupiter for the very first time in their lives. On Thursday 13 August, the local astronomy enthusiasts will bring out their telescopes again, so everyone can have a good look at everything that glitters in the Milky Way.”

Dr Chadwick’s videos have two departure points – the old Opiki bridge, and Himatangi Beach. From there, over the course of half an hour, the Journey through Our Southern Skies will take the audience past our closest galactic neighbours – the Magellanic Cloud and out of the Milky Way.

“This is a beautiful place, where people from different cultures come together, celebrating diversity,” says Ms Steedman. “Honouring the traditional Māori New Year, on a frosty clear winter’s night, is a perfect occasion to bring out telescopes and some hot chocolate with marshmallows. We’ll keep everybody warm.”

Audiences throughout New Zealand have already admired Dr Chadwick’s work.

“We’re lucky to have him living in Horowhenua, and sharing the night skies in this way with us,” says Ms Steedman. “It will be a real eye-opener for people to see what the universe looks like. What Dr Chadwick presents to us is a mix of art and science. And it is stunningly beautiful.”   

The ‘Journey through Our Southern Sky’ presentation will start at 6.30pm in Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom.

The stargazing event starts at 7.30pm, in Te Awahou Riverside Cultural Park.

Free entry to both events.

De Molen will also put on its usual brilliant lightshow of morphing reds, blues and purples on the windmill, to give the entire scene some additional brightly festive hues.

For further information visit www.teawahou.com/Whats-On.

PLEASE NOTE: In case of an overcast sky – Dr Chadwick’s presentation will still go ahead (just like the hot chocolate). But the stargazing event may be postponed for a week.

 

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