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The Stargazer returns


John Nemy will give the first of four astronomy presentations on Oct. 25

Andrew Mitchell

Life is looking up for John Nemy.

After a five-year absence, Whistler’s favourite stargazer has returned to town, with every intention of picking up where he left off.

Nemy lived in Whistler from 1985 to 1997, and spent the last few years of his time here conducting popular Mountaintop Astronomy seminars on top of Blackcomb Mountain.

Guests would take the Wizard and Solar Coaster chair lifts to the Rendezvous, where they would be given a multimedia presentation on different astronomy subjects, and then taken outside to gaze through his 16 inch reflector telescope.

For the past five years he has been in the Niagara Region of Ontario, where he conducted stargazing tours at Stone Church Winery with his long-time companion, Carol Legate.

"It was a beautiful experience and we saw some great night skies, but you just don’t get the same night skies you do out west," said Nemy.

"We don’t have the same light pollution they have in the Niagara area."

Now that he has returned, Nemy has wasted no time in getting back into the swing of things. He wrote this week’s Naturespeak for the Whistler Naturalists, and they have signed him up to conduct four presentations at Millennium Place. This first presentation, titled "The Milky Way and Other Great Galaxies", is on Oct. 25 starting at 7:30 p.m.

"I find in the people here a greater awareness of nature, everyone is very in tune with it," he said.

" People are not just interested in Whistler, either, but in where we are in the sky, and more that that, in the celestial world."

The presentation will feature the early astronomers from Galileo to Hubble, the discovery of galaxies, and the growing awareness of where we are in the universe. It will also feature slides of galaxies, including some taken by the Hubble telescope.

The second presentation, scheduled for Nov. 30, is called "Splendors of the Night Sky."

Nemy and Legate are not formally trained astronomers, but they have spent decades studying the skies around our planet, the solar system, galaxy and universe. They attend astronomy events in places like New Mexico and Manitoulin Island, Ontario, where they saw "the darkest, most perfect night sky."

Nemy, who is also a musician, released a CD of ambient music in 1995 inspired by the night sky.

After more than ten years of sharing their hobby with others, Nemy and Legate have acquired a reputation as an excellent and enthusiastic presenters.

The Naturalist presentations will be scaled down version of the multimedia presentations Nemy is used to giving, complete with music and photographs, but he hopes to resurrect the Mountaintop Astronomy series over the winter.

"Whistler is great because it’s still relatively dark at night, even around the village," said Nemy.

" The backcountry is almost perfect for star gazing, and you can get to that with a 15 minute drive from Whistler.

"From the mountains, it’s phenomenal."

Eventually he would like to see a full observatory in the area for the West Coast area, complete with a full 34-inch reflecting telescope. The eyepiece for a telescope that size is almost four metres off the ground.

"You can get some pretty good resolution looking at distant galaxies," said Nemy.

" They’re not as blurry and you can start to see the stars within them."

The Naturalist series is sponsored by, which will be including draw prizes at each event. At the first event the prize is interactive astronomy software that works like a planetarium.

Admission at the events is by donation.