Meet the starman looking at the sky

August 18, 2023 BY

Star finder: Norm Matyson spent nine months designing and building his planispheric astrolabe. Photo: BARBARA SUNGAILA

NORM Matyson wants to share his passion for astronomy with everyone.

From time-to-time he sets up one of his telescopes at Heathcote on a Friday or Saturday night and invites people to come and join him via local Facebook groups.

“It’s just to share that interest and 9.9 times out of 10 people come along and they see something that they’ve never seen before,” he said.

“I do it because I’m a member of the Astronomical Society of Victoria and I’m the section director here, it’s part of my role.”

Mr Matyson also works with a range of groups including schools, Scouts and senior citizens, as well as visiting different venues such as wineries.

“We go there, and we set up a telescope,” he said. “Some people have never seen the moon close up, but there are all these features such as the valleys and craters.

“That’s the true beauty, sharing the knowledge and sharing the experience.”

For the last 23 years Mr Matyson has been rekindling a childhood fascination with the night sky.

“I’ve been stargazing since 2000 when I stopped riding motorbikes,” he said. “I started by doing research in libraries and eventually I joined the ASV.

“They have a dark sky site on a property at Ladys Pass, about 13 kilometres north of Heathcote.

“I met a lot of great people there and then I bought my first telescope and started learning about optics.

“Once I understood how that worked, I started learning about the constellations, where they are in the sky, their meanings and the legends associated with them.”

The upside-down Orion the Hunter is one of his favourites.

“He was a very lively fellow and he was always looking for females, according to the Greek legend,” Mr Matyson said.

“He was set after the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades, but he couldn’t get to them because Zeus was not going to let this randy old hunter through.

“It’s also very beautiful constellation which you can see with the naked eye, it’s got the great Orion nebula which is in the sword which hangs off Orion’s Belt.

“The nebula is the third star in the sword, and it looks like it’s out of focus but it’s a place where creation is occurring.

“It’s big gas cloud 1500 light years from us that’s condensing to form stars.”

Mr Matyson’s hobby led to extensive tinkering in his shed when he started to build some of his own equipment.

His planispheric astrolabe involved three months of planning and six of construction.

“An astrolabe is like an abacus for mathematical problems in the sky,” he said. “It lets you know where stars are.”

With groups like the Astronomical Society of Victoria operating across the state, Mr Matyson said they were a great way to learn more about astronomy.

“With the society we’re all there for the same reason, to pursue our interests,” he said.

“We’ve got every profession from plumbers to professors and from gardeners to surgeons.

“They’re all for the same thing and it’s not how big their telescope is or how expensive it is, it’s just the passion that they have for discovering something new.

“We get people coming from around the world to Ladys Pass and that fosters international friendships which is great.”

The ASV runs a number of public events each year, for more information visit their website.