Auckland’s Stardome Observatory is a great night out for adults as well as kids. While they have several shows aimed at adults, “Our Night Sky” show is my favourite, as it changes each time we see it based on the current night sky.
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 an indoor planetarium, but Stardome Observatory is different.
We headed to Our Night Sky, a planetarium show that is both live and interactive. As a result, both the presenter and the audience ask questions of each other.
Despite the minimum age of 5 for this show, the level of questions produced some fascinating discoveries.
All of this is done on a 360º live screen through Stardome Observatory’s domed theatre.
Afterwards, we all headed outside to view the stars through the courtyard telescopes. Learning and then doing makes it more interesting.
Getting to Stardome Observatory
Getting here is fairly easy for us, as we live in and own a car in Auckland. Stardome Observatory is located inside Cornwall Park, which is also home to the iconic One Tree Hill.
There is a small carpark at the planetarium, but once it fills up you will need to park somewhere else inside Cornwall Park. There are plenty of close options.
I am not sure why, but the long queue to get in surprised us, even though everyone had advanced tickets, as this particular night had been sold out for days.
I wish we knew then to check for discounts, but today we do and always go first to 100% kiwi owned Bookme, where they now have discount options specifically for the Our Night Sky show at Stardome Observatory.
Stardome Observatory’s dome theatre
The queue was actually waiting for the doors to the dome theatre to open. Once they did, people could pick their own seat, and first in had the first pick. Note that if you are late, you will not be let in.
All of the comfortable, reclined seats in the 360-degree dome theatre make it easy to see the show.
Pro Tip: The best viewing is actually from the back.
Rather than just a colourless dome as we entered the theatre, the dome mirrored the current sky just outside. This is when having it be a nice evening became more important.
On that particular night in January, it was nearly 8pm, and while the sun hadn’t set yet, it was low in the sky.
Our Night Sky
As I mentioned above, the show is live, rather than the more typical film we have seen of the planets at other planetariums.
It’s also somewhat interactive and guided by an expert presenter.
Importantly, it starts with the local sky. Next, the effect resulting from the glow of the city lights is removed, and we can see the many more stars that are normally hidden from us.
After we have looked at all of the celestial sights locally, we begin to expand.
In fact, the presenter took us on a journey beginning in Auckland’s current night sky and then travelling beyond the galaxy.
There were cool shots like the two just below. The first highlights Saturn as we moved away from earth, and the second photo shows the charted universe. It is visible from earth to 6 billion light-years away. The wedge shape created by our position in the galaxy blocks us from seeing through it.
Our Night Sky doesn’t end with the show
One of the most special things about the show is the courtyard telescope viewing that takes place afterwards.
For me, discovering new things about the universe in the show and then immediately being able to find these same objects in the sky reinforces what I learned in a way that nothing else can.
Best of all, the staff is on hand to locate stars, planets, and nebulae, and then we get a close-up look.
Plus, it’s just plain fun.
Next is the big Zeiss telescope at Stardome Observatory
If you want a mesmerizing 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 actual night sky.
This is a separate ticket from any of the shows.
While the Zeiss can magnify much more, our guide explained that they generally view at about 208 times magnification. 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. Therefore, refunds or rain checks were provided to those with the Zeiss add-on.
However, for the purposes of writing this article, I had prearranged for this contingency in order to get a photo of the Zeiss telescope.
And we got lucky. 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.
Inside the Stardome Observatory gallery
Arrive early, or plan to stay late to enjoy the other space and planetary displays. Allow at least 30 minutes if you like to read everything.
Visiting Stardome Observatory
- General admission to the gallery and exhibits is $2, and you pay more to see the shows. It is the shows that make it one of the best museums in Auckland.
- The live “Our Night Sky” planetarium show is on most Wednesdays, with some Thursdays to Sundays. The show is at 8.30, with an added show at 7pm if on Saturday or Sunday nights.
- The minimum age for Our Night Sky is 5. If you have younger children, be sure to check out the quite similar kid’s version entitled Looking Up.
- The courtyard telescope viewing is included with your show ticket. However, there is an extra charge to see the Zeiss telescope.
- Tuesday night’s special live show is strictly 16+ and fills the dome with psychedelic images and a Pink Floyd musical theme.
- If you want to learn more, download some of their free astronomy guides here.
- A visit to Stardome’s Our Night Sky is actually a really fun Auckland date night, as it is one of the best things to do in Auckland at night.
Save on your NZ trip with these resources
These are our go-to companies when we travel. We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Accommodations: we use Booking.com (hotels) or BookABatch (self-contained).
- Cars (gas or electric): we use RentalCars to search for deals and dealer ratings.
- Campervans or Motorhomes: we use Campstar where Albom Adventures readers get a 3% discount
- Activity discounts: we check Bookme.com for discounts of up to 70% on activities.
- Private guides: we love the private guides at Tours by Locals
- Travel Insurance: our go-to is World Nomads*.
Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
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More from Auckland you might also like … starting with these 75 free and nearly free things to do in the city
Disclaimer: I was provided with complimentary entry and tour, however, the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.
Huge surprise to see my pic taken to the Moon posted here. Thank you for that.
I tested Zeiss (before renovation) for 400 sec with an incredible result.
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!
What are you waiting for? This weekend might be the perfect time to give it a try.
Jamie Dorner @Penminion
That looks great! I wish I was there. We have a tiny planetarium in Allentown PA USA. And I’ve been to the Adler in Chicago. That looks like a great one to visit. I’m jealous.
I love the Adler Planetarium. I grew up in Chicago.
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.
Stardome does an outstanding job.
Looks like a really cool event and I can tell you now my husband would absolutely love this
Mine did too
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!!
Haven’t bee to that observatory but to others, and we love them We even have our own small telescope for star spotting
When you come to New Zealand, we should go to the Tuesday show.
Grey World Nomads
It’s so impressive! Great to see and experience the wonders of nature and have the technology to support the virtual travel in space.
It’s just so vast, and the planetarium brings it into our reality.
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.
I haven’t been to the one in LA, almost once but it wasn’t open the night we were there.
Rhonda, This is definitely the kind of thing that Jim and I like to do. How fun!
Yes, I am sure you will love it, we did.
Yes, I can imagine you and Jim writing about Stardome at some point.
That looks fantastic i have only been to one when I was a kid and loved it I enjoyed the photos Rhonda 🙂
Have a tanfastic weekend 🙂
They are not just for kids. This particular show I went to was for ages 8 and up.
The pics are just beautiful, especially the one of Saturn! Thanks so much for sharing all the info and the images! 🙂
I was pleased that I could get such a great photo of an image projected on the dome screen.
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
Lyn - A Hole in my Shoe
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.
I am sure that is one great show on a Tuesday. When are you coming to Auckland? I would love to meet you.
I’ve never been to an observatory. I love going outside to look at the stars on a warm summer night. I bet the show was a lot of fun. Have a terrific weekend.
The cool thing about the planetarium, is they tell you want everything up there is, and how to locate it.
I have never been to an observatory but reading your blog I think it is something I should do.
Wow, never. I agree, you should give one a try.
Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor
Wow – another great place I somehow missed visiting when we were in Auckland! It’s humbling to look up and realize how tiny our planet is in the scheme of things.
This one you really need to visit when you get back to Auckland.
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
There is always next time.
Lydia C Lee
I love observatorys – we used to go the the Sydney one all the time. You really get a feel for how tiny you are….
True, especially in that last shot when they zoomed out so far from our galaxy.
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. 🙂
We did have a great night. I will email you with our plan.
L. Diane Wolfe
I love how it encompasses both a show indoors and one outdoors. Lucky you the moon appeared for a brief moment.
Agreed. I have been to other planetariums, but never one with the outdoor telescopes. It was a wonderful treat. (and so was he Zeiss.)
Juergen | dare2go
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.
Patience is the secret. I think I waited a few months before we had the right night.
Indah Nuria Savitri
Huge telescope you have in there, Rhonda..
Stardome actually has two of these, the other is used only by the scientist.
Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields
Wow – this just looks magical. I wanted to travel to the stars when I was young. I’m over that now, but seeing them like this would be such a fantastic experience.
It was pretty magical, especially those few seconds when we got to see the moon.
Pinay Flying High
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!
Yes, the last two photos were from the 360 dome theatre. Although, it would be really impressive to see in a telescope.