Stardome Observatory: An Evening Under the Auckland Stars

It started out as a beautiful clear night, a perfect evening to visit the Stardome Observatory in Auckland. Normally I wouldn’t care about the weather when heading to a planetarium but Stardome Observatory is different.

The planetarium show we selected was live and interactive, both the presenter and the audience asked questions of each other. Narrating, he took us on a journey beginning in Auckland’s current night sky and traveling beyond the galaxy.  Afterwards, we all headed outside to view the stars through the courtyard telescopes. Learning and then doing makes it more interesting.

Dome theater at Stardome Observatory in Auckland New Zealand

Inside the dome theater, before the show started. The sky mirrors the current time. It was nearly 8pm on the night we went in January.

Looking through the courtyard telescope at Stardome Observatory in Auckland New Zealand

Included in the ticket price for the evening show, the courtyard telescopes complete the experience. The staff locate stars, planets, and nebulae and then we get a close up look.

Truth be told, it is quite overwhelming to think about all that is up there in our skies. See for yourself, hold your arm out, thumb up, pointing towards the sky. Your thumb is hiding about 100,000 galaxies from your view. Of course to see them you would need something much more powerful than you eyes.

If you want a mesmerising closer look, Stardome Observatory offers “private tours” with a maximum of 15 visitors viewing through the Zeiss telescope in their copper observatory dome, which opens to the night sky. While it can magnify much more, they generally view at about 208 times, as this gives an insight into deep-space objects. As a comparison, the average camera zoom lens magnifies only 4-6 times.

Through the Zeiss telescope groups view planets, moons, Orion and other nebulae, 47 Tucanae and other globular clusters, and galaxies. Unfortunately by the time the show was over, the sky had clouded over. Rain checks or refunds  were given for those of us who were headed to the Zeiss.

As it was prearranged, they showed us the telescope anyway so I could get the photo. For just a brief, yet incredibly special moment the clouds cleared and we could see the moon. It’s not that often that things far exceed my expectations.

Zeiss telescope at Stardome Observatory in Auckland New Zealand

An astronomer sets the Zeiss telescope for us.


This close up of the moon was shot through the Zeiss telescope on a different night. Photo Credit: Danut Ionescu, Stardome volunteer, member of Auckland Astronomical Society and of Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand

This close up of the moon was shot through the Zeiss telescope on a different night.
Photo Credit: Danut Ionescu, Stardome volunteer, member of Auckland Astronomical Society and of Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand

Arrive early, or plan to stay late to enjoy the other space and planetary displays. Allow at least 30 minutes, longer if you like to read everything.

Displays at Stardome Observatory in Auckland New Zealand

The main room of displays.

As I knew taking photos during the show would disturb my neighbours, we were brought back in after the last show. There we were taken from our world out into the galaxy, and then beyond.

Saturn seen in the dome theatre at Stardome Observatory in Auckland New Zealand

Saturn, as we moved away from earth in the dome theatre.

The charted universe visible from earth through any means seen at Stardome Observatory in Auckland New Zealand

The charted universe visible from earth to 6 billion light years away. The wedge shape is created by our position in the galaxy which blocks us from seeing through it.

Practical Information:

  • Stardome Observatory is located in Cornwall Park (which is also home to One Tree Hill). See their official website here.
  • Admission to the gallery and exhibits is free.
  • All of the comfortable, reclined seats in the 360 degree dome theatre make it easy to see the show. The best viewing is from the back.
  • The live planetarium night sky show that we saw is offered on Wednesdays to Sundays at 8pm.
  • The courtyard telescope viewing is included with your show ticket, however, there is an extra charge to see the Zeiss.
  • Other shows in the planetarium are recorded, typical to what we have seen in other parts of the world and country (Spain, France,  Alaska, and Wellington).
  • Tuesday night’s special live show is strictly 18+ (for alcohol) and shares the sky with a musical theme.
  • If you are bringing younger children, check out the weekend daytime shows. Click here for current shows and times.

Have you been to Stardome Observatory? Have you seen the sky through a Zeiss Telescope?

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Zeiss telescope at Stardome Observatory in Auckland New Zealand

This post also linked at:
Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 8.30.17 pmThe Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond, Weekend Wanderlust at Justin plus Lauren, Photo Friday at Pierced Wanderings, and Sunday’s in My City at the Unknown Mami.

Disclaimer: I was provided with complementary entry and tour, however the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.

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  1. says

    Please tell me that the last two photos are just a display and not your own photo from the telescope? Because if it is the latter then I will have to book a ticket now to go there! It’s amazing!

  2. says

    I love a visit to a well run planetarium, although it has been some time since I last went. When we were in Chile, near Vicuna – famous for its usually clear skies, we were contemplating a visit to the large EU funded observatory there, but their prices and the weather (mostly overcast and some rain) at the time weren’t encouraging. That could have been a nice experience – quite different from the projections you see in a planetarium. But alas – no luck.

  3. says

    I’ve been to an few observatories, but not this one. It’s most fun to do.

    Let me know what your plans are in May when you visit San Francisco. We’re about one and a half hours away from the city.

    Have a fabulous day and weekend. 🙂

  4. Katy says

    That is truly awesome. What an amazing experience. I am kicking myself as I feel like I wasted many work trips to Auckland sitting in a hotel room when I could have been at one with the universe. Thanks for sharing

  5. says

    An observatory is a great place for a visit to realise what an insignificant space we occupy in this universe. We have done some stargazing at the observatory here in Perth but would love to visit Auckland’s on our next visit on a Tuesday night, stars, wine and music, what a romantic combo. Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard

  6. says

    Hi Rhonda – what an amazing visit … I’d love to go there and to have your type of experience. Space is quite extraordinary and so fascinating … brilliant – loved your photos .. cheers Hilary

  7. says

    Very cool! I love going to the observatory in LA and viewing Saturn. I’ll have to check this one out too if I’m ever in the area.

  8. says

    I really enjoyed scrolling through your photos. It’s a great place! I would go in a heartbeat! My nephew’s uncle helped put the Hubble Telescope into place (Astronaut Bruce Melnick) Outer space is always fascinating!!

  9. says

    You are so right, Rhonda, the Universe is really overwhelming. Whenever I look at the skies I get the same feeling you do. This was a really nice event. I’m sure I’d enjoy it too.

  10. says

    I am loving your story, Rhonda. It’s been ages since I’ve been in an observatory, I’m embarrassed to say, because I find astronomy so interesting. You’ve inspired me to seek out the nearest planetarium, preferably one with no light noise so I can actually see something!

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