NZ firsts: First World Heritage Site…in the sky….

The International Dark Sky Association declared the sky above the Mackenzie region in the South Island as the first International Dark Sky Reserve for its clear skies. Perfect for stargazing! Very limited light pollution means the views of the night sky seem to stretch on as far as the eye can see.

The reserve, which includes Canterbury University’s Mt John Observatory above Lake Tekapo, Twizel and Aoraki-Mt Cook village, is only the fourth in the world and the second in the Southern Hemisphere.

The observatory is home to six telescopes, including the country’s biggest, which measures 1.8m across and can observe 50 million stars each clear night.

At 4300 square kilometres the Aoraki-Mackenzie reserve is the biggest, ahead of reserves at Exmoor in England and Quebec in Canada, and the recently announced Namirand Nature Reserve in Namibia.

It is also the first “gold-rated” reserve, meaning the darkness of its night skies is almost unbeatable.

To put it simply, it is one of the best stargazing sites on Earth

It puts the Mackenzie Basin on the map as a destination of international significance and sends a clear message to people that if they want the ultimate dark-sky experience then this is the place to come! I have definitely been lucky enough to see this natural wonderland for myself.