Monday, July 13, 2009

International year of astronomy

Church of the Good ShepherdChurch of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo, Mackenzie Country, NZ. Photo: Associated Press

People's ability to see starlight is in increasing danger due to light pollution and pollution of the air. Many people around the world cannot see stars anymore because of night light pollution.

Our beautiful Mackenzie Country still has a pristine dark sky and the Tekapo area is currently bidding for world night sky reserve status, one of eight world-wide night UNESCO heritage site bids. Capture2

The Mount John Observatory, located above Lake Tekapo near Mount Cook in the South Island,  is home  to six telescopes, including NZ’s biggest telescope which measures 1.8m across and can observe 50 million stars each clear night. There are fears that the night sky will be compromised in the future by light pollution emanating from encroaching housing developments. Development must be very carefully managed and this is where the heritage protected status comes in.  It would be a terrible pity if we were all to lose sight of the beautiful night sky. 

Mt  John ObservatoryPhotographer unknown but see where I found this one and many other awesome photos.


  1. I am envious of dark night skys. You are so very lucky.

  2. Fantastic. Dark skies are very rare here. Another reason to move to the Faroe Islands.

  3. Though I’ve lived all my life in relatively rural areas, this is ‘relatively rural’ in UK terms: ie within only a few tens of kilometres of cities such as Manchester, which means I’ve only see phenomena such as the Milky Way, or the Northern Lights a few times. I envy you the clarity of the skies where you live.

    Having said that, light pollution can still provide some striking photos of the night sky: I must post some of the ones I’ve taken sometime.

  4. Oh Lou we have the night sky at our cabin. You really don't get how amazing it is even from a picture.
    When you go outside late at night it is as if the sky is dropping down on you with a big blanket of stars too heavy to hold up any longer.

  5. Beautiful pictures, Lou. I haven't been out to the countryside to look at the stars in a very long time. I should do that someday soon.

    When my folks lived in Arizona they told me they didn't have street lamps because their area was a designated observation point for telescopes, so external lighting was strictly regulated.

  6. Ohhh Lou - I remember the first time I saw the NZ sky (in Cambridge) and I was blown away. My BIL pointed out the Southern Cross and I just sat there on my in-laws steps looking at the stars. I was hoping when we went to Alaska I could show my husband the night sky - I didn't factor in it doesn't get dark there in the summer - sighs.
    Thanks for the lovely pictures and reminder.

  7. we have areas not far from where I live where I can see the stars like that... I love it!
    In fact, astronomy was my major in college way back when (unfortunately I discontinued after one year to come to Germany...).

  8. I agree Punch, we are lucky but we must be more than lucky to maintain it - it's going to take some sacrifice.

    PV the Faroe Islands? Are they the ones above Scotland? Too cold for me I think.

    I'd be interested to see Simon.

    Lori what a beautiful way of putting it. I do know what you mean - our Southern sky feels like that to me sometimes (not so much where I live though as city lights are too bright).

    Tim that's what we're trying to do here - official protected reserve status which is hopefully enough to ensure very strict developmental limitations in this particular area. Go for a drive one weekend, stay in a B and B and star gaze. It's good for the soul.

    We forget sometimes I think Joanne who beautiful our night sky is - yet another thing we take for granted *sigh*

    Dorrie lucky you too then. I would love to study astronomy, perhaps you might take it up again one day for pleasures sake? Not that telescopes, even amateur ones, are cheap. One day I will have a decent one I hope.


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