The vast majority of us are content to look up at the night sky and gaze at obscure stars, or perhaps be amused by some man-made spectacle like spotlights or the blinking lights from passing plane. This is what we have grown accustomed to. But if you want a truly spectacular look at the heavens, then you will need a little help from some extraordinary places. The Earth and Sky Mt. John Observatory in New Zealand is just that kind of place, offering stargazers some truly stunning views of celestial action.
Situated at 1,029 meters above sea level, the rare observatory is one among four other International Dark Sky Reserves in the world. Found in the Mackenzie District, the area is famous for the visual clarity of its sky and purity from light pollution. The region was actually declared a gold-level International Dark Sky Reserve in mid-2012. The place even has its neighboring town of Lake Tekapo power down, in order for it to provide as pure a view of the night sky as possible. Lake Tekapo is a charming and lovely community found in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island.
Ubiquitous street lamps and other artificial lights are quite indispensable tools that we need to navigate through the night, but unfortunately they have no benefit for stargazing as they tend to mask the natural night sky of its splendor. This is why in most areas one does not get to see the fantastic astronomical views that resident astrophotographers Maki Yanagimachi and Dallas Poll observe at this exceptional place.
Guests are enjoined to soak in the magnificent views through Earth & Sky’s Day and Night Tours, which can be directly booked through their website. People in the thousands come here every year to observe the southern stars as well as transient phenomena such as aurorae meteor showers and the zodiacal light in all their unspoiled brilliance.
If you desire to capture a permanent record of the visible night sky, the folks at the observatory can help with astrophotography. Taking of photographs and video footage on Mount John is allowed but exclusively for private use only. Commercial use of such photographs or video footage is forbidden.