Sky full of stars

Action Asia - - REAL DEALS -

THE AORAKI-MACKEN­ZIE RE­GION, cen­tred around Lake Tekapo, is a cer­ti­fied Dark Sky Re­serve, which means that it has ex­cep­tion­ally starry nights, nat­u­ral dark­ness, and a pro­tected noc­tur­nal en­vi­ron­ment. Though closed for a time due to dam­age caused by un­guided pub­lic ac­cess, the grounds of The Church of the Good Shep­herd, a much pho­tographed land­mark close to the lake, were re­opened last Septem­ber and can now be en­joyed through guided tours with Earth & Sky. The St John Ob­ser­va­tory Tour in­tro­duces ob­jects and con­stel­la­tions vis­i­ble to the naked eye and through a por­ta­ble tele­scope. In­side the ob­ser­va­tory, vis­i­tors can see a wide range of equip­ment not ac­ces­si­ble to the gen­eral pub­lic and learn about the re­search that takes place. There’s also an in­tro­duc­tion to Tā­tai Aro­rangi – Maori as­tron­omy. Vis­i­bil­ity is very im­por­tant on these tours: with a full moon, the Milky Way is fainter; a moon­less sky gives the most de­tailed view of the gal­ax­ies; while a par­tial moon will look great through tele­scopes. Tours are avail­able un­til the end of Fe­bru­ary, 2019, though if suc­cess­ful, may be ex­tended to give chances of view­ing the aurora aus­tralis, best caught in the win­ter months from March to Septem­ber. Visit www.earth­and­sky.co.nz for book­ings.

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