Aurora chasing around and above New Zealand

Friday 28 May 2021 at 6.00pm, at the Presbyterian Community Centre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka.
Dr Ian Griffin, Director of Otago Museum, Dunedin.

Cost: $5 per person.

Since first observing the southern lights a week after he moved to Dunedin seven years ago, Ian Griffin has become obsessed with the aurora australis. On clear nights he can be found on the back bays of the Otago Peninsula trying to experience the aurora’s subtle glow.

Ian’s fascination with the southern lights has led to a number of adventures. These include being cautioned for speeding by an unsympathetic police officer during the best auroral display of the past ten years, and chartering four Air New Zealand airliners to fly thousands of kilometres south of Aotearoa deep into the southern auroral zone. During this talk Ian will share some stories from his secret life as an aurora addict.

When not chasing auroras Ian is the Director of the Otago Museum in Dunedin. He has a PhD. In astronomy from University College London and has discovered more than 20 asteroids including 10924 which is named to honour his wife Maria. In 2015 Ian was awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize and in 2019 he became a Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Ian Griffin has been Director of Otago Museum since 2013. Under Ian’s leadership the Museum has had a greater focus on the collection and science engagement which has led to increased use of the collection for research and greater access for communities; and thousands of people from across Otago, wider New Zealand, and when possible the Pacific nations, engaged in a wide variety of science-based experiences that aim to educate and inspire lifelong learning.

Another major focus has been making the Museum’s buildings fit for the future and financial sustainability. Under Ian’s directorship the Museum has seen major upgrades of plant and equipment, installation of the Perpetual Guardian Planetarium, the only 3D planetarium in Australasia, and the Tūhura Otago Community Trust Science Centre, the largest science centre in New Zealand.

Ian has previously been director at the Armagh Planetarium in Northern Ireland, the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory in Florida and the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester. He has also served as chief executive officer of Stardome in Auckland, head of public outreach at NASA and chief executive of the Oxford Trust.

Having a PhD in astronomy, Ian has a passion for photographing aurora, comets and constellations. He writes a weekly column in the Otago Daily Times and is a strong advocate for the preservation of Dunedin’s dark skies. In recognition of his contribution to science communication in New Zealand, Ian was awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication prize in 2015, and in June 2019 was made a Companion of the Royal Society Te Apārangi.