Blind astronomer constructs backyard observatory
By day Tim Doucette is legally blind and can barely see across the street, but when darkness falls he can see far into space.
The Moncton, N.B.-based computer programmer was born with cataracts, and surgeons removed the lenses in his eyes when he was an infant.
The procedure left his eyes overly sensitive to light, but also gave him superior night vision.
"Most of my seeing is enhanced for dimmer objects, dark sky objects, deep space-type objects," Doucette said.
Before he turned his focus to the stars, Doucette said, his wife had been urging him to take up a hobby.
So he bought an inexpensive telescope from a nearby store and started looking at the night skies.
"I realized how much fun I had in being able to see Mars and see features on Mars with a cheap, cheap telescope [and it] sort of opened up Pandora's box," Doucette said.
From that starter telescope, Doucette has gone on to construct an amateur observatory just outside of his back door.
His new telescope has lens and camera attachments that allow him to photograph what he sees.
"As far as the astronomy shed — the observatory — after setting up and tearing down the equipment 147 times taking 45 minutes each time to set up … it got pretty obvious that we needed something more permanent if I wanted to get serious about astro-photography," he said.
Doucette said he has 20/200 vision and has never been able to see much except lights.
As a child, Doucette said, he loved going for drives with his family looking at Christmas lights.
Now with the assistance of some magnification by his telescope, he can see objects far off in space.
Doucette is a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and has had one of his photographs published in the organization's magazine.
"I was pretty excited the first time, they don't tell you, so the first time you open up the magazine it's like, 'There's my picture and my name and everything,'" he said.
"It was pretty rewarding actually."
Doucette said he's helping the local astronomy club organize a photo contest for people across New Brunswick.