Stars over Tekapo

Tekapo is a special place. This small town has a big observatory at Mount John, 1000m above the town. It has six telescopes including New Zealand’s biggest telescope with a diameter of 1.8m, built with Japanese money. The observatory is operated by the University of Canterbury. University astronomers work here with astronomers from Nagoya University, Japan.

The town of Tekapo is very careful that their street lights don’t shine upwards. Astronomers need a dark sky to watch the stars. Yesterday the astronomers at a conference in Tekapo learnt the news that this area in the Mackenzie country will be called a Dark Sky Reserve. The area includes Mt Cook village, Twizel and Tekapo – 4,300 square km, the biggest Dark Sky Reserve in the world. There are only four of these reserves – one in Exmoor, England, one in Quebec, Canada, one in Namibia, Africa, and now this one in the South island of New Zealand. It is also the only gold-level dark sky reserve which means it is very dark and excellent for viewing stars.

Mt John has a road up to the top. There are night tours for tourists who want to look through telescopes at the stars.


diameter – 2 x radius; distance across a circle
operated – controlled
reserve – a protected place, like a park.
watch, view, look at stars. They all mean the same