Astronomy in NZ

Every human’s wish when they stare up the stars is to have a feel of what professional astronomers view through their magnificent telescopes. Or invariably imagine themselves holding a 4m-diameter Anglo-telescope designed by neighbouring Australia.

One of the best places in the world to fully explore the night sky is undoubtedly New Zealand. The world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve and the only Dark Sky sanctuary in the world was established here because of its clear sky. One of the only eight Gold Level Reserves in the world and the only one found in the Southern Hemisphere is the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. Located in the Mackenzie District, the 4357 sq km Reserve experiences a zero level of light pollution in the area.

A Dark Sky Sanctuary is an area that has a nocturnal environment and a unique quality of starry nights. These sanctuaries are protected for their natural, scientific and their educational value which do not exclude public enjoyment or cultural heritage. The Great Barrier Island/Aotea is the third place in the world to be allocated as a sanctuary and it’s now known as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. New Mexico and Chile are hosts to the other two sanctuaries.

In NZ, there are over 40 locations from North to the South recommended below for night sky viewing. The weather in NZ can be tricky, so don’t fret when you notice cloudy skies at night, it will return back to normal in a few days time. Try to engage the locals as they have knowledge of the sky like the back of their hand.

New Zealand’s astronomical field is broad as it ranges from institutional centres to attraction sites and guided tours. Observatories by are being operated by astronomical societies for visitors, they dedicate time and effort to share their New Zealand’s Night Skies knowledge to visitors.

Note: This is done voluntarily by these groups without charge, but a little token or donation can be handed out as a form of appreciation.

Astronomical Societies in The North Island

  • Hamilton Astronomical Society, Waikato
  • Gisborne Astronomical Society, Gisborne
  • Hawera Astronomical Society, Taranaki
  • Rotorua Astronomical Society, Bay of Plenty
  • Phoenix Astronomical Society, Wairarapa
  • Horowhenua Astronomical Society, Manawatu
  • Hawkes Bay Astronomical Society, Napier
  • Northland Astronomical Society, Northland
  • Whanganui Astronomical Society, Manawatu
  • Tauranga Astronomical Society, Bay of Plenty
  • Whakatane Astronomical Society, Bay of Plenty
  • Wellington Astronomical Society, Wellington
  • Palmerston North Astronomical Society, Manawatu
  • New Plymouth Astronomical Society, Taranaki
  • Auckland Astronomical Society, Auckland

Astronomical Societies in The South Island

  • Southland Astronomical Society, Southland
  • Astronomy Section, Nelson Science Society, Nelson
  • Canterbury Astronomical Society, Canterbury
  • Dunedin Astronomical Society, Otago
  • Oxford Area School Observatory, Canterbury
  • South Canterbury Astronomy Group, South Canterbury
  • Ashburton Astronomy Group, Canterbury
  • Central Otago Astronomical Society, Central Otago
  • North Otago Astronomical Society, Otago
  • Oxford Area School Observatory, Canterbury
  • South Canterbury Astronomy Group, South Canterbury

For public telescope viewing, you can consider The Big Seven: