The University of Arizona


Stu Parker—Astronomer and Dairy Farmer
Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stu Parker travelled over 6,500 miles from New Zealand to attend Adam Block's image processing workshop the first weekend in April at SkyCenter. "I had seen Adam's work on the net and thought it would be great to come over to the States to attend. I didn't really know what to expect from Adam's program. It was more than a 10 out of 10!"

Stu and his wife are dairy farmers from New Zealand but somehow in addition to the long hours he spends at work milking cows and growing grass Stu maintains an avid devotion to examining the night skies. He spends most of his observing time imaging and searching galaxies for supernovae that will help professional astronomers refine our understanding of the Universe. Each observing night he scans 300-400 galaxies. Only by evaluating many thousands of galaxies does he discover a single supernova that has not already been discovered by others. He has been recognized for the discoveries of eight supernovae to date. Observations of these transient phenomena are critical to figuring out answers to questions about the evolutions of stars and the Universe, about how the Universe is expanding and what we are made of.

After observing so many short exposures of dim galaxies,Stu wanted to capture the beauty of the Universe he observes. The acquisition and processing of long exposures of these galaxies require a different skill, one that SkyCenter's "Making Every Pixel Count" workshop teaches. Adam Block, host of the workshop administers the program for small goups three to four times each year. His expertise attracts visitors from around the world—even from as far as away as New Zealand!

"The experience I gained from this will change my astro-imaging and my life forever and I would like to thank Adam for that. I had a great time and I hope to come back this time next year and do some observing with Adam". SkyCenter hopes to see Stu Parker of Parkdale Observatory again next year—and hear about the new supernovae he's imaged in 2010.

Article appeared in the April 2010 issue of Australian Sky & Telescope.  Copyright 2010 Sky Publishing Corporation and Odysseus Publishing PTY Limited.