On any given night when the clouds part and the night sky
shimmers, you can find Otago Museum director Ian Griffin in
his backyard or somewhere away from the city lights with his
eyes to the sky.
Dr Griffin has brought his love of astronomy to New Zealand
from England and is loving what he has been able to view
since he arrived.
One reason he chose to come to work and live in Dunedin was
the night sky in the South Island.
''I have been very lucky really. Since I got here there have
been eight or nine aurora [southern lights], which have just
been fantastic to view.''
Other than the southern lights, Dr Griffin has been kept busy
photographing the night sky with his camera and telescope,
usually set up in his backyard in Portobello.
After receiving a PhD in astronomy, Dr Griffin's first job
was working at a planetarium in Ireland but, since then, his
interests had changed, and astronomy was now a form of
relaxation for him.
Not that staying up all night can be called relaxing when you
have a 9am meeting.
''If there is a nice dark sky and you have a meeting the next
morning you really have to balance the keenness of wanting to
get out and do astronomy.''
A constant surprise was the number of people who had lived in
Dunedin for many years but had hardly ever noticed what was
above them at night.
''Part of my role as a newcomer is to try and get people
excited about this because Dunedin as we all know has some
wonderful qualities but it's wonderful night sky is one that
doesn't get much attention.''
His passion for the stars did not mean Otago Museum would be
installing a telescope on its roof any time soon, but
exploring the possibility of more astronomy at the museum was
something Dr Griffin was open to.
''Obviously just because I'm a fan of astronomy does not mean
we are going to go straight ahead and build something in the
museum that didn't make sense.''
The Dunedin Astronomical Society at the Beverly Begg
Observatory already did a fantastic job for astronomy in
Dunedin, he said.
His backyard is not just a low-budget observatory. Dr Griffin
has also set up a weather station which records the weather
from his backyard and publishes for the world to see on
''Being curious about the world is a good thing and tools
like the weather station help me understand what is going
- by Tim Miller