A life-long love affair with astronomy has seen Dr Julian Oey of Haoey Dental in Sydney’s Potts Point build his own observatory and become a specialist in binary asteroids
“The first telescope I ever owned was a small three-inch reflector. I didn’t know anything about the night sky and I aimed it at what appeared to be a bright star. When I looked through the telescope and saw Jupiter and four of her moons, I just couldn’t believe it. Later, I was thrilled to see Saturn and her rings. There was a real joy of discovery at those moments that I still feel to this day.
“As my interest in astronomy developed over the years, I kept buying better quality telescopes. I started taking pictures of stars and galaxies and that led to even bigger telescopes until I eventually decided to build myself an observatory. This was 15 years ago when I had just purchased a property in Leura in the Blue Mountains. It’s a great place for an observatory as it’s about 1000 metres above sea level and the sky is very clear with minimal pollution.
“I placed a dome on my observatory and have a fixed telescope inside. Initially, I was taking pictures of stars and galaxies using film photography but I now use digital CCD (charged coupled device) cameras. I also maintain a website with a complete list of all my discoveries and details of my observations.
“After astro-photography, I started looking into different types of research astronomy. In 2006, I attended a large international conference for the Astronomical Society in Sydney and they encouraged us to become astro-photometrists. It requires you to take a series of images and measure the brightness of an asteroid in reference to a fixed star. If the brightness fluctuates, this means the asteroid is spinning. If a satellite is orbiting the asteroid, the light curve graph will have a small regular dip. It’s an unusual configuration but I have personally discovered four binary asteroids and co-discovered eight others.
“Recently, an asteroid passed very close to Earth and I was directly involved in the discovery that it was a binary. My name was listed on the NASA website which is always very exciting.
“Astronomy is a beautiful art coupled with challenging science requiring precise technical skills. There are also a lot of toys to play with—not unlike dentistry. It’s the thrill of discovery that keeps me going back for more and the basis of my life-long interest.”