Stargazing in New Zealand
New Zealand is the perfect place for stargazing. There is very little light pollution and therefore you can enjoy very dark nights. New Zealand has three recognised areas that are known for some of the best stargazing in the world. There are also several observatories spread across the country, where you can learn more about the stars and planets. You can also use their telescopes in order to see many stars and planets!
Map New Zealand
International Dark Sky Sanctuaries
The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) recognises the islands of Great Barrier Island and Stewart Island as Dark Sky Sanctuaries. The definition of a Dark Sky Sanctuary is: An area of land with an exceptional or distinctive starry night quality and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural or educational value. Dark Sky Sanctuaries are normally located in remote areas where few factors interfere with nighttime vision. The Great Barrier Island is located east of Auckland and can be reached by boat or plane. This was the first island to be recognised as a Dark Sky Sanctuary. If you want to read more about the Great Barrier Island, check out day trips from Auckland. Stewart Island was the second island to receive this recognition. Stewart Island is located south of the South Island and can be reached by ferry from Bluff.
International Dark Sky Reserves
In 2012 the Aoraki Mackenzie area in the South Island was recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve on behalf of the IDA. What is the difference between a Dark Sky Sanctuary and a Dark Sky Reserve you may ask. The difference is mainly in the location, sanctuaries are more remote than reserves. This reserve is therefore located in the middle of the South Island. This reserve was created because of the initiative of several landowners. They declared their land as a good nighttime environment and have been recognised by IDA through regulation and long-term planning. To make the most of these dark nights, you can go to the Mt John Observatory in Tekapo. Here you will learn more about the Universe and you can use their telescopes to view the stars and planets. For more information, visit www.darskskyprojects.co.nz.
In New Zealand it is possible to see the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) while stargazing, this is the counterpart of the Northern Lights. This is mainly possible in the southern part of the South Island, around Tekapo, Dunedin, Queenstown, Southland and Stewart Island. July and August is the best time, especially around the new moon phase when it is even darker.
Tours en observatories
Would you like to see and recognise stars and planets in New Zealand, but you’re not sure where to start? Then you may be interested in the following tour options.
Big Sky stargazing tour – Mt Cook
Mt Cook is located in Aoraki Mackenzie’s International Dark Sky Reserve and therefore there is no light pollution. You can use their telescopes outdoors and they tell you all about what you can see. Even if the weather is too unfavourable to see stars, this tour is still worth it. They have New Zealand’s first digital Dome Planetarium Theater with a 360 ° live view of the southern night sky.
Skyline Stargazing – Queenstown
In Queenstown you can take the gondola up up the mountain. From there your guide will take you to Bob’s Peak. Here are powerful telescopes that allow you to see stars and planets that you have never seen before. If the weather is unfavourable, you can also attend a performance in the Moonlight Theater here. You can of course also choose to try it on another day. Click here for more information.
Carter Observatory – Wellington
You can also visit the North Island if you are interested in the universe. Unfortunately it is not as dark as in many other places on the South Island. You have to go inside for a great experience. The Carter Observatory is located in Wellington, which can be reached with the famous red Cable Car. Here you will discover everything about planets, stars, constellations and galaxies through interactive exhibits in their digital planetarium. You will also learn about New Zealand’s contribution to astronomy and space science.
Stardome – Auckland
If you prefer to sit back and watch great footage, Stardome is a good place for you. Here they have multiple planetarium shows where they delve deeper into different stars and planets. They also have an observatory where you can use their telescope if the weather permits it.