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Leading astronoment retires after 13,908 days at UC

One of New Zealand’s leading astronomers retires after 13,908 days at UC

March 5, 2014

One of New Zealand’s leading astronomers, who has been studying the binary and variable stars for decades, has retired from the University of Canterbury (UC).

Professor John Hearnshaw was most notably associated with Tekapo’s University of Canterbury Mt John University Observatory, which is the only observatory in New Zealand owned by a university.

``Mt John has been a huge part of my life and I hope UC’s ties remain strong at the observatory, which is UC’s best known research facility with 75,000 visitors annually. Mt John’s research is known and respected by professional astronomers around the world.

``Mt John has a huge impact at UC in the College of Science. I have started writing a book for the Canterbury University Press on the history of Mt John, to be released next year. I am also planning a Mt John 50th anniversary symposium at Tekapo in May next year.’’

Professor Hearnshaw is planning the second international Starlight Festival, to be held at Twizel next year. He is currently chair of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.

``I started at UC in 1976 and finished last week as professor of astronomy after 13,908 days in the employ of the university. I have produced seven books and have published 273 papers or articles on astronomy.

``I have taught about 2500 undergraduate lectures at UC in 130 courses over 38 years. I organised an international conference Astronomy for the Developing World, held in Prague, 2006.’’

Professor Hearnshaw was associated with many big global projects all of which involved instruments built by UC. Among these was the McLellan telescope which cost about $1million in 2014 dollars.

He was the main organiser of the Starlight Festival, held in in Tekapo last year.

Professor Hearnshaw has been active in promoting astronomy in developing countries. He has visited 14 developing countries on lecture tours in the last decade including Venezuela, Mongolia, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago (2005), Uzbekistan, Mauritius, Paraguay, Tajikistan and North Korea.

``I have had 38 wonderful and very satisfying years at UC and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it,’’ Professor Hearnshaw says.

Professor Paul Fleming, UC’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Science, says Professor Hearnshaw’s retirement has left an extremely strong legacy of world-leading research of which the University and New Zealand can be justly proud.

``We are delighted that his enthusiasm and leadership in astronomy will not be lost to us as he continues to work on a number of key projects. The whole University community wishes him well in retirement,” Professor Fleming says.


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