Find a place to see the stars

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Local groups

Many astronomical societies operate observatories on a few nights each month and are very happy to share their knowledge of New Zealand’s night skies with visitors.

Note : these local astronomy groups welcome interested visitors to their observing nights. Not all groups have a formal charge for their time and expertise. Please show your appreciation by making a donation to the group’s funds.

New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to explore the night sky.

In fact, the sky is so clear that an International Dark Sky Reserve has been established here – one of only two ‘Gold Level’ reserves in the world. There are more than 35 locations from north to south where night sky viewing is recommended.
But you don't need to spend many days in New Zealand to realize that the weather can change quickly - and often. So don't be disappointed if it's cloudy at night - in a few days it will be clear again! And wherever you are in New Zealand there are friendly locals who know the sky like the back of their hand!

The New Zealand Sky

Why did the director of a southern hemisphere observatory, Dr B J Bok, say to members of the Royal Astronomical Society in London - “Gentlemen, you live under the wrong half of the sky!” ?

Useful Links

Find out where to learn more about New Zealand astronomy, weather predictions and more.

Why bother?

Stars.  It’s strange to see there are so many of them; though in some detached part of our brains we know there are trillions of trillions of them.  But we forget to look.  We keep meaning to, but it might only be once or twice a year we find ourselves looking up on a dark night at our own sliver of the universe.
When we do, we feel ourselves pleasantly diminished by the majesty of what we contemplate.  As we renew our connection with immensity we’re humbled without being humiliated.  It’s not just us, personally and individually who are diminished in comparison.  The things that trouble and bother us seem smaller as well.

The sight of the stars – perhaps glimpsed above a suburban railway station coming home late after an extended crisis in the office, or from a bedroom window on a sleepless night – presents us with a direct, sensory impression of the magnitude of the cosmos.  Without knowing the exact details we’re powerfully aware that their light has been beaming down changelessly through recorded history; that our great grandparents must have from time to time looked on just the same pattern of tiny lights.  They look so densely packed and yet we grasp that they are in fact separated by astonishing gulfs of empty nothingness; that around them circle unknown worlds – lifeless maybe or perhaps teeming with alien vitality and harbouring dramas of incomprehensible splendour and tragedy about which we will never know anything.  Perhaps in a hundred or a thousand generations our descendants will be at home even there. 

It is sublime because we are drawn entirely out of the normal course of our daily concerns and our thoughts are directed to matters in which we have no personal stake whatever.  Our private lives fall into the background, which is a contrastive relief to the normal state of anxious preoccupation with the local and the immediate.

We’re taught that interest in the stars is scientific, but it should be humanistic.  If a child gets excited by the stars, parents feel that they should undertake a visit to a planetarium and make a stab at explaining thermonuclear fusion, gravity, the speed of light, red giants, white dwarfs and black holes.  The presiding assumption is that an interest in the stars must be directed towards knowledge of astrophysics.

But very few of us will become science professionals.  We can afford to be impressionistic because it never will really matter whether we can remember much of the detail.  We’re amateurs and we need something else. The stars matter in our lives because they offer a consoling encounter with grandeur, because they invite a helpful perspective on the brevity and littleness of human existence.

Alain du Botton - The Book of Life