I had always dreamt of stargazing under a sky full of sparkling stars, along with the arm of Milky Way. & I almost had that dream fulfilled.
Lake Tekapo, other than its beautiful lake waters and the Church of good Shepard, is also a Dark Sky Reserve – a place where the sky is so dark its perfect for studying stars. Which also explains why they have the observatory up on Mt John.
There are tours offered by Earth and Sky and I managed to sign up for one. This guided tour brings you all the way up to Mt John and allows us to visit the observatories as well as watch some stars.
It’s easy to sign up for the tour, click here for more details. Warm jackets are provided for the trip up even during summer but remember to dress warm, its really windy up there and not to mention, really cold.
Since it is summer, they have 2 different kind of tours, a Twilight tour, which allows you to watch both the sunset and the stars, as well as the night observatory tour. I took the night observatory tour and we met at 11pm at the Earth and Sky office, checked in with the staff and took a mini coach up to the observatory.
We were explained the telescopes are very sensitive to lights and were not allowed to use anything that can emit lights at the top of the hill. When checking in, we were given a red light as a souvenir and these light helped us navigate our ways in the dark (red light doesn’t affect the telescopes, so we would shine it anywhere we want. Though it wasn’t of used much since the moon was so bright that night). The mini coach even have to off the coach lights halfway up the hill.
If your camera has manual settings, you can pass it to the staff and they would be able to help you snap a few pictures of the stars. We walked around the telescopes, peeking into it to see the various stars that night, where we could see from simple things like the moon, Jupiter, The Jewel Box, Globular Clusters and lots of other interesting stars and formations. (For star nerds, really, so in love!)
We were put into 2 groups as we were having a really huge group that night. While we were being taught how to find North using the Southern Cross in the sky, while all of us were having our eyes fixed on the sky, a small shooting star flew by, we all made a wish and continued with our tour. & that was just being the starting of our luck!
Halfway through the tour, when we were keeping ourselves warm with the hot chocolate drink provided, the staffs spotted aurora at the back!! & it was really visible despite the fact that the moon was shining really brightly that night.
We took a group photo with a 20sec shuttle. As you can see, the picture turned out really bright, because the moon was shining on us directly. (& yeap, summer up on Mt John looks like this. FREEZING COLD).
This tour is definitely worth doing! Prices might be a little on the high side but extremely insightful and those who are into stars, you should not even think about missing this!
I headed down to Church of Good Shepard once the tour ended and decided to just lie there and enjoy the stars. But it’s really cold I couldn’t stay for more than 1 hour… T^T
Thought I could do another stargazing session the next night but I didn’t wake up to my alarm, by the time I woke up at 5am, the sky was already well lit. But here’s some pictures I took with my camera! Enjoy~~!