Moon gives light to Peter Jackson film

01:43, Jan 31 2009
NIGHT SKY: Brian Carter was asked by film-maker Peter Jackson to find the moon's position in 1943 during the Dambuster raid.

With a trademark eye for detail, film-maker Peter Jackson has hired an astronomer to ensure the moon's position in his movie Dambusters is spot-on.

A full moon was key to the May 1943 Dambusters raids, in which Allied planes bombed German dams at night.

Former Carter Observatory senior astronomer Brian Carter, not related to the founding Carter family, was asked to research the moon's position over Germany at the time.

"Somebody just rang up. I didn't realise it was for Peter Jackson until later."

Mr Carter has since been made redundant from the observatory and has set up a paid service providing information about celestial events.

Computer software allows him to find where the moon was at any time, anywhere on the globe.


"We can see its position, how bright it was, that sort of thing."

He was impressed by the lengths Jackson had gone to.

"I think these days film-makers like to get things as right as possible. In the past there have been a few bloopers."

The attack took place on May 16, 1943, a date chosen for the full moon, and because the dams' water levels were high.

The moon's dim glow gave just enough light for flight crews to perform the precise task of dropping unique bouncing bombs on the dams, but also exposed them to anti-aircraft fire, meaning they had to hug the ground. A deadly mix of German guns and accidents from low-level flying meant that of the 19 Lancaster bombers and 133 crew taking part, eight planes and 56 men were lost.

Jackson is known as a director who likes to put the stamp of authenticity on his films. For his remake of King Kong he created a mini 1930s New York set in the Lower Hutt suburb of Seaview.

A spokesman for Jackson said Dambusters was still in pre-production. Filming was expected to start next year.

The Dominion Post