Sky full of stars
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.