New Zealand TV and the space race grew up hand in hand. For 11 years, self-taught astronomer and enthusiast Peter Read explained each new development and talked about what could be seen in the heavens on his monthly show Night Sky. A commercial artist by training, Read painted the set’s early backdrops. He made several trips to the USA to witness launches, interviewed visiting astronauts and, with models in hand, broadcast live on the night of the first moon landing. When it was cancelled in 1974, Night Sky was the country’s longest running show.
By 1973, Night Sky had been a familiar presence on New Zealand screens for 10 years; with astronomer Peter Read a knowledgeable, no-nonsense interpreter of developments in the space race and the stars. In this episode, Read reflects on the show’s first decade, from its first outing in June 1963 (when it was briefly called The Sky This Month). Read revisits highlights including the total solar eclipse in 1965, interviews with visiting astronauts, the first moon landing in 1969, and a visit to the United States to witness the launch of Apollo 15.
In this episode of his long running series about the stars, astronomer Peter Read visits Matauri Bay on the East Coast to view preparations to monitor the only total solar eclipse visible in New Zealand in the 20th century. Read is shown a revolutionary camera that will be used to photograph the eclipse and he talks to an American expert about rockets that will be fired into the ionosphere to record it. Weather concerns are allayed and footage of the corona effect, when the moon is completely in front of the sun, is impressive even in black and white.