US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — A photograph of New Zealand shows a bright starry sky. Deep in the stone church at night, complete silence, and behind it, the Milky Way looms with a magnificent background. Almost everyone who travels in New Zealand, stop by here and come here – to a small village near Lake Tekapo on the South Island. People seek here to see the most beautiful starry sky in the world.
In Maori, Tekapo means “a straw mat in the dead of night”, and a more poetic translation is “a place for a serene sleep under the stars.” In fact, Tekapo is located at the bottom of an open valley in the Southern Alps. The continuous snow mountain range around blocks all the light, we add to this a sunny and dry climate and clean air, and all this makes the local natural conditions excellent. Of course, in order for this place to remain the cleanest from light pollution in New Zealand and around the world, the tireless efforts of 400 permanent residents of the village must also be taken into account.
Each family limits and reduces artificial lighting in their own homes at night. The government has modernized the design of street lamps, reducing their height so that the light rays concentrate only on the point that needs to be lit. Even the nearby military barracks coordinately joined this plan. When night falls, many elegant Victorian-style gardens are absorbed in impenetrable darkness, and only the dim light of lanterns almost at the very ground dimly illuminates the way home.
We have a clear understanding of the starry sky in the Southern Hemisphere, visible with the naked eye – this is the Southern Cross and its navigation stars – those constellations that can be seen at any time, and they are recorded in the history of ancient Greek mythology. However, to observe and photograph the stars of deep space, you will have to go to a more specialized observatory and use astronomical telescopes and equatorials.
The temperature at the top of the mountain is even more unpredictable. Light pollution on the mountain is very strictly controlled. Driving up to the mountain peak, the bus driver turned off the headlights, and in the blink of an eye there was total darkness ahead. He told us that for six years he has been driving a bus here. As soon as everyone understood this, no one began to panic.
At that moment there was such darkness around that, if you stretch out your hand, you could not make out fingers, and it was incredibly quiet. It took us some time to get used to the complete darkness, after which we saw the light of stars. I held my breath, most afraid of disturbing the ancient orbits of the life path of the night sky and stars.
Nothing prevents the open mountain peaks, and at night the small village usually completely dissolves in the dark. And the moment you look up, the beautiful Milky Way appears in the sky, even more clearly than you saw it yesterday. “We are already above 1000 meters above sea level, so the Milky Way, as you see, looks much brighter.”
The guide seemed to know all of everyone’s thoughts and actively clarified any doubts that might arise in the traveler’s mind. The village of Lake Tekapo is located in the center of the South Island, the height of the surrounding mountains is at least 2000 meters. And Mount John is a stone peak that began to collapse during the Ice Age, and its peak, of course, is the best place to observe the stars on the entire South Island.
By focusing your eyes on the starry sky above your head, you can clearly see thousands of stars with the naked eye. The guide pointed the laser pointer up, and a ray of green light hit directly into the night sky. Of course, his first recommendation for exploring the sky is the Southern Cross, the constellation of the Southern Hemisphere, and the two stars used for navigation are Alpha Centauri and Hadar.
The guide made a laser pointer marking and showed where to look, patiently teaching everyone to identify the constellations of the Southern Hemisphere in the sky and find the direction of the stars from this angle. Whether it was Captain Cook, who had once sailed to New Zealand, or the Maori, who had sailed the ocean by canoe before him, they were all guided by these stars and successfully reached land.
Mount John Observatory has the southernmost research astronomical telescope in the world, visitors can even go inside. The building resembles an alien base. Whether it’s fantastically beautiful details of the Rosette Nebula or the rings of Saturn, the photograph of which was once the cover of a natural science textbook, you can all see them through a telescope at the observatory, since only a few nebulae can be seen with the naked eye.
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