Mt John Observatory

Mt John Observatory – For amazing views of the Mckenzie country and a very interesting place to visit. 

Mount John University Observatory, is New Zealand’s premier astronomical research observatory. Established in 1965 and is situated at 1,029 metres (3,376 ft)  at the northern end of the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island, close to Tekapo. It attracts many visitors and is surrounded by glacial lakes, moraine and the Southern Alps, the observatory offers incredible 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside.

It’s operated by the University of Canterbury, and is the home of HERCULES (High Efficiency and Resolution Canterbury University Large Echelle Spectrograph). You can find technical details on the University of Canterbury website.

The star-studded night sky of Mount John, on the shores of Lake Tekapo, was selected as the ideal site for an observatory due to the clarity of the skies above Tekapo and the Mackenzie Basin. Today the observatory is internationally renowned and is also one of the most beautifully situated observatories in the world.

In June 2012 an area of 430,000 hectares (1,700 sq mi) around the observatory was declared as the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association, one of only four such reserves around the world.

Visitors are welcome to take an educational tour of the observatory, or join a nightly star-gazing tour. The tours use telescopes, binoculars and the naked eye to enjoy such sights as the Milky Way Galaxy, the Southern Cross, Alpha-Centauri and Sirius – the brightest star in our sky.

There are 5 large telescopes on the mountain that are in regular use. There is also a cafe and night-tours run by tourist operators, Earth and Sky.

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Looking over Tekapo township and the incredible turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo.  The intense turquoise colour is caused by ‘rock flour’ (dust ground from rocks in the glacier’s headwaters).

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Surrounded by glacial lakes, moraine and the Southern Alps, the observatory offers incredible 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside.Lake Tekpao (right) and Lake Alexandrina (left),

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Lake Amexandrina

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Lake Tekapo

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The observatory –  looking back over Tekapo towards Lake Benmore.

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Looking towards Mt Cook

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While you are in the area visit the church of the good shepherd in Tekapo which, in 1935, was the first church built in the Mackenzie Basin.

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Overlooking Lake Tekapo, the Church of the Good Shepherd, built in memory of the pioneers of the Mackenzie area.

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Bronze sheepdog
Close to the Church of the Good Shepherd is the well-known bronze statue of a New Zealand Collie sheepdog. The statue was commissioned by Mackenzie Country residents in recognition of the indispensable role of the sheepdog in their livelihoods.

Mt John University Observatory, 422 Godley Peaks Road, Tekapo. There is daytime vehicle access to the summit of Mt John, a $5 road toll applies to cover the high maintenance costs of the private road.

See my other posts of this area.

 

 

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