Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival

The Hermitage and Hillary Alpine Centre, Mt Cook, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve

The Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival will celebrate the creation of the southern hemisphere’s first International Dark Sky Reserve, in the Mackenzie Basin and at Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park in the centre of New Zealand’s South Island.

The Dark Sky reserve is recognized by the International Dark Sky Association, which is the international body giving accreditation for Dark Sky Reserves and Dark Sky Places world-wide.

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is the world’s largest such reserve (4367 square km), the first in the southern hemisphere and the first to be declared with gold tier status, the highest that can be accorded, and its formation is a recognition of the pristine skies of the Mackenzie which are essentially completely free of light pollution. The goals of the reserve are to promote star-gazing and astro-tourism, as well as to protect the astronomical research at Mt John University Observatory.

The observatory is the astronomical research station operated by the University of Canterbury and has four optical telescopes for observing variable and binary stars, for work on extrasolar planets, the Galactic Centre, the Magellanic Clouds, comets, near-Earth asteroids and the study of stellar spectra at high resolution. It is the world’s southernmost astronomical observatory at 44 degrees south.

The International Dark Sky Reserve is managed by a Board with representatives from the University of Canterbury, the Mackenzie District Council, Department of Conservation, the Royal Astronomical Society of NZ, the International Dark-Sky Association (Tucson AZ), Ngai Tahu and a representative of the tourism industry. For more information please see the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve website.


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