December 13, 2013 5:21 pm
Updated: December 13, 2013 10:04 pm

Seeing stars: Moncton man uses vision condition for astronomy work


MONCTON – Tim Doucette grew up gazing at the sky, dreaming of one day being an astronaut.

“I used to look at the moon quite a bit when I was younger,” he says. “I sort of took a break from it after I discovered I was different…I had a visual impairment.”

Doucette was born with cataracts in both eyes, so he only had 10 per cent of his vision.

Then, as a teenager, the lenses in both his eyes had to be removed, and his hopes of reaching for the stars were dashed.

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“I lost a little bit of courage and I realized that I was never going to be an astronaut or anything astronomy related,” he says.

But it turned out Doucette had a condition known as Aphakia, which left him with superior night vision.

“That’s when I discovered that my eye condition is kind of a bonus when it comes to looking at things that are dim,” he says.

Those things include the moon and the stars — Tim has been so obsessed with astronomy ever since, he built an observation dome in his back yard.

“I would be starting an imagining session in the evening and then I would not get done until about 3 a.m., and I’d be dragging all my stuff in the house,” he says.

Doucette’s wife Amanda says she welcomed the dome idea.

“He kept coming in early mornings coming in from being outside and waking me up and taking the paint off my walls, so I was very happy to see him go outside with his dome,” she says.

Doucette now spends hours huddled in his dome, staring at the cosmos. His condition allows him to see far beyond the planets and stars he dreamed of as a boy.

“I’ve seen comets, I’ve seen planets and deep sky objects that I never imagined that I would ever see in my lifetime,” he says.

Doucette is now sharing his passion for astronomy with his community.

“That’s my goal, I guess, is to bring it to other people,” he says.

“We’ve had scout groups and girl guide groups come in. It’s wonderful to see these children come in and have an opportunity to see what’s up in the sky.”

But one moment was truly out of this world for both Tim and Amanda, who is also legally bind. A group from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind visited the dome.

Amanda says she was touched by the gesture.

“We had some people come in who had a lot less vision that my husband and I do. Some of them have very low light vision and they were able to look through the telescope and see the moon for the very first time. It was excellent.”

© 2013 Shaw Media

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