Nova Scotia has many incredible stories and Tim Doucette story is no exception. He is an expert in the field of astronomy, owner of the Deep Sky Eye Observatory & is legally blind. Tim was born with cataracts and underwent an operation to remove the lenses from his eyes, which widened his pupils. This gave him an exceptional night vision.
Tim has taken this gift and has turned it into a lifelong passion including the opening of the Deep Sky Eye Observatory in Yarmouth County. It is scheduled to celebrate its grand opening on Friday, September 9 from 7-9pm.
To appreciate how amazing Tim’s story is, I want you to read it in his own words.
|I was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in the early seventies. It wasn’t until a year later down the road that my family discovered I was totally blind. Cataracts covered both eyes and doctors performed several surgeries that would give me back only 10% of my vision.
Like most children, I was fascinated with outer space from the moment I laid eyes on the moon. The beautiful celestial objects pictured in books and magazines captivated my imagination. I dreamed of becoming an astronaut; to see and photograph the wonders of the universe for myself.
As a teenager, my vision worsened as cataracts returned and scar tissue blocked my view of the world. Doctors operated once more to widen my pupils and completely remove what remained of the lenses of my eyes. This had some rather interesting side effects.
The night I arrived home from the hospital. Stepping out of the car, I gazed up at the night sky and saw the Milky Way like I had never seen it before! Not a dim fuzzy patch of light, but an ocean of starlight that travelled millions of light years only to touch my retina, travel through my optic nerve and down my spine! The surgery had exposed parts of my retina that had never seen the light, like a newborn, making it very sensitive to light. I hoped one day I might be able to re-enter the world of astronomy.
Fifteen years later my family and I settled in the small city of Moncton, NB. During the Mars opposition of 2003, my wonderful wife Amanda purchased a 4.5” reflector telescope in the hopes of sparking my interest in something other than video games. I was not expecting much from such a small instrument. Peering at Mars through the eyepiece for the first time rendered me speechless! I grabbed my video camera and recorded a video through the eyepiece. At that moment a childhood dream was awakened; the desire to explore the universe and take images of what I had seen.
Given my past experience, I was concerned about how much I would be able to see through a telescope, especially in the city. Bright planets such as Mars are one thing, but deep sky objects are a different beast altogether. I joined the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and this led me to a second discovery. During the first observing session at a dark sky site, my friend prompted me to have a look in the eyepiece of his 8” reflector telescope. I described the object as a small bluish circle with a hazy center and two stars (M57 The Ring Nebula).
After observing several deep sky objects that night, I realized I was able to see faint deep sky objects better than anyone I knew. As it turns out, the lens of the eye acts as a natural ultra-violet filter. Having my lenses removed and my already large pupils permanently dilated allowed me to see some of this light.
From that point, I never held back. I dove into astronomy and haven’t looked back. I joined the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (was the National representative for the NB Centre for 2 years), became a published astrophotographer, set up a backyard observatory in the city of Moncton (as neither my wife or myself could drive a car). For the next 10 years, I shared the night sky with people of all walks of life. Every month we had a public observing night and with the help of my good friends, we shared the night sky with hundreds of people. We entertained groups of people including a group from the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind).
One gentleman that I remember only had about 2% of his eyesight and could only see black and white. After making some adjustments to the eyepiece he was able to see the craters of the moon for the first time in his life.
It was an emotional experience for everyone!
Two years ago, for family reasons, we moved back to my hometown of Quinan, NS. I was approached by a local business, Trout Point Lodge, who were trying to attain a Starlight Tourist Destination and Starlight Tourist Reserve issued by the Starlight Foundation. The foundation is backed by UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union. (http://www.starlight2007.net/). I met with the auditors from the Canary Islands and within six months the area of South West Nova was awarded the first Starlight Tourist Destination & Reserve in North America.
Having already planned to build a new observatory in the area we decided to turn it into a business. A year and a half later the Deep Sky Eye Observatory (http://deepskyeye.com) was born! Since May of this year, we have had over 150 visitors from around the world. From Alberta to New Mexico, UK, Germany, Africa, and Spain.
Guests arrive at sunset at the 20’x12’ observatory. Currently, we take groups of no more than 10 people. The lower floor has a presentation room where I give a short 20min talk about the history of the observatory, astronomy topics such as light pollution, how to look through a telescope, astronomy 101, how to use a star finder, and what we will see in the sky that night.
After the presentation, guests enjoy a snack (my wife’s awesome cooking) and we pack up and prepare to go outside. As we use red lights in the observatory, the guest’s eyes are already dark adapted. In the summer time as you open the door to go outside you are greeted by those millions of stars that make up our own Milky Way Galaxy.
“Wow! That’s the Milky Way!!”.
We get that a lot 🙂
In the back yard of the observatory we head over to the 20’x20’ concrete observing platform, sit back in the anti-gravity chairs with a pair of binoculars and a warm blanket as I give a tour of the universe.
After I wake everyone back up :), it’s off to the observatory again to the upper floor where guests enjoy almost an hour of a guided tour looking through the Celestron 14” Edge HD telescope at deep sky objects to the sound of soothing music.
Our Grand Opening is scheduled for Friday, September 9 from 7-9pm.
We invite everyone to come see what it’s all about. We’ll have our telescopes pointed at the Moon. Cake, door prizes, ribbon cutting ceremony. Special guests “CBC’s Land and Sea” will be filming that night.
Expand your mind, free your spirit. Your journey through the Cosmos awaits!
Images Copyright Tim Doucette
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