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Legally Blind Amateur Astronomer Can See the Night Sky Better Than You

Despite being born with congenital cataracts and having just 10 percent of a normal person’s vision during the day, when the night comes amateur astronomer Tim Doucette can see things most of us cannot.

When he was just a teenager, Doucette underwent an operation that removed the lenses from his eyes, and widened his pupils, in order to improve his weak sight. A normal person’s pupils automatically adjusts according to the amount of light coming in, but Tim’s are always open, letting in a lot  of light. During the day, everything he sees is extremely bright and overexposed, even when wearing glasses to protect his eyes from the light. His vision is about 10 percent that of the average person. However, at night time, everything changes…

The first time he noticed the special side-effect of his operation was when he first took off the bandages from his eyes. “I just had the bandage removed from one of my eyes, and looking up at the Milky Way and it was like a curtain had been lifted, it was just amazing,” Doucette remembers. At first, he actually thought he had a detached retina, as he was seeing millions of bright spots, but soon realized he was looking at the stars of our galaxy. 12 years ago, Tim’s wife, Amanda, who is also visually impaired, bought him a telescope and he took up astronomical observing as a hobby.

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Photo: Deep Sky Eye Observatory/Facebook

Tim only realized his gift at astronomical observing during a session with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. He looked through a telescope and was asked what he was seeing. “I said ‘I see what looks like a doughnut, and a couple of little stars in the middle.'” He was told that he shouldn’t be able to see things like that with that particular type of telescope. “That’s sort of where things started to snowball,” he told CBC Radio.

He started dedicating more of his time to astronomy, meeting like-minded people and sharing his findings with them. “It’s been phenomenal, meeting people, seeing people’s view of seeing the stars for the first time and the moon for the first time; that they’ve never been able to see the craters, stuff like that, has been very touching for us,” Amanda says.

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Photo: Deep Sky Eye Observatory/Facebook

Tim Doucette used his life savings to build the Deep Sky Eye Observatory in Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, and inaugurated it this year. He says he was discouraged to follow his astronomic passion as a child, due to his eye condition, but he always had “a drive to see the moon and the stars and everything,” so his observatory is a dream come true.

The amateur astronomer says that when he looks through a telescope, his eyes are like a camera without a lens, so it is focusing the light very clearly on his retina. “I see a little bit of extra light than most people would see,” he claims. For example, the Orion Nebula looks like a fuzzy patch to the average person, but he is able to see a purplish tinge that the rest of us don’t pick up without advanced equipment.

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Photo: Deep Sky Eye Observatory/Facebook

To Tim Doucette, the night sky in his native Nova Scotia “is like a tapestry of interstellar dust, it looks like a velvet background with diamonds all through it.” He calls it “absolutely amazing”.

The Deep Sky Eye Observatory is open to the public and includes a viewing deck and state-of-the-art telescopes, which people can remotely connect to through Twitter or Facebook.

 

Sources: Great Big Story, CTV News