Enjoy Our Night Sky

Astronomy, stargazing, or simply lying back and taking in the awesome splendour of the night sky

The township of Kaikōura is situated on a latitude of 42° South and a large part of the Southern sky, including the Milky Way, is visible year-round. The Large and Small Magellenic Clouds, the Southern Cross, and the magnificent globular cluster Omega Centauri are all easily visible and make good subjects for viewing or astrophotography.

Planetary observers will not be disappointed either, as Kaikōura is also far enough North to make the Sun, Moon and planets high enough above the horizon for clear viewing or photography. A low population density ensures that there is always an opportunity to find a secluded location, away from distractions or lights, to just lie back and take in the awesome splendour of the free celestial show that nature has to offer.

4.5m Private Dome in Kaikoura taken by Larry Field
Private dome by Larry Field
A Perfect Night in Kaikoura
A perfect viewing night by Larry Field

Star Gazing Tips

We encourage you to step outside and use these simple star gazing tips for the best experience.

Click on the headers below for more information.

There is never a better time to star enjoying the night sky. If you’re going to be outside for a while dress appropriately for the cold, with a warm jacket, thick socks, gloves, scarf and a hat. Take a blanket to lie on.

If you’re lucky you’ll be able to stargaze from where you’re staying, but it might not be the ideal place. You could be surrounded by other houses and trees, which all reduce the amount of sky you can see. Any light pollution coming from nearby streetlights and homes can take even more of your view away.

Check out where best to view the Kaikōura night sky on this page.

You’ll need to give your eyes time to get used to the darkness which can take up to half an hour but worth waiting for as then you can see so many more stars! Don’t look at your phone while you wait; its bright screen will ruin your night vision.

Take time to observe the individual stars. The sky is full of them but notice how some stars are brighter than others. Look for Canopus, the brightest star in the southern skies. Every star is a distant Sun and they are all different sizes and distances away from earth. Is a bright star closer to us than a faint star? Like light bulbs, some stars are brighter and more powerful than others. 

Look for differences in the colours of the stars.  Most stars are an icy white colour, but some are more of a bluish colour while others are yellow, orange or even red because stars have different temperatures. Blue stars are hotter than orange stars.

Don’t browse on your phone while you wait; its bright screen will ruin your night vision. But turning your screen red will help preserve your dark adaption.

A galaxy is a huge collection of gas, dust, and billions of stars and their solar systems. A galaxy is held together by gravity. Our galaxy, the Milky Way is the edge on view of our own spiral galaxy, and we live midway in one of the arms of the disk. Can you see the supermassive black hole in the middle?

The stars in the sky can be joined up to form patterns known as constellations.  There are 88 in the sky and you might easily recognise the Southern Cross as one of the most well-known. Try to spot other constellations such as Orion or Scorpius. Get help by using a chart or a cell phone app such as Star Walk 2.

At a different time of year, you’ll see the whole sky has changed. This is because the constellations we see change during the year, as Earth orbits the Sun. Each season has its own constellations, which is why it takes a year to properly learn the sky and not just one night.

You can see all the planets out to and including Saturn with your eyes alone, although they’re not all visible at the same time. To the eye Venus is by far the brightest and fairest planet. 

You tell which bright stars are actually planets as stars twinkle but planets.  Stars are points of light, planets are tiny discs. You can confirm this by working out whether your ‘planet’ is located along the ecliptic.  

You might be lucky and see a star dash across the sky: a meteor, or shooting star! These are tiny grains of space dust burning up in the atmosphere. Very bright ones, called fireballs, can drop meteorites on the ground.

If you stay outside long enough you will notice the stars have moved. This is because as Earth rotates the stars appear to sweep across the sky. This effect is often captured by astrophotographers and is known as star trails. Only one star stays relatively still: Polaris, the Pole Star, which is aligned with Earth’s axis and can be found using the ‘Pointer’ stars. 

There are plenty of apps which will help guide you around the night sky. Check out our resources page.  Just remember to turn your screen brightness right down or make it red to keep your night vision!

Slowly move up along the Milky Way and spot star clusters (dense group of stars which all formed together), 4 moons of Jupiter and nebulae (ghostly clouds of luminous hydrogen gas which forms stars). On the Moon look for craters, radial splash lines, dark lava seas and mountain ranges.

Best to use a digital camera on a tripod, even a cell phone held very still.  

Telescopic Experience

Kaikōura doesn’t have a public observatory. Just 2 hours drive north is the Omaka Observatory which provides night sky tours from a crater observatory in the Omaka Valley.

There are several local astronomers in Kaikōura with specialist telescopic equipment who volunteer their time to help us explore the night sky. The Trust will shortly be hosting regular astronomy evenings so keep an eye on our calendar, or let us know if you are interested.

Where to View 

We can recommend many excellent night viewing locations around the District, each offering different scenic views and astro photography opportunities. Some are close to town in case you are on foot or just want a short time outside, others are in the true wilderness and warrant at least an overnight stay in a tent or hut.

Nature - 48 Hours in Kaikoura
Kaikōura Chimney by Rachel Gillespie

Monthly Night Sky Information in Kaikōura

View and download a PDF containing all this months night sky information specifically for Kaikōura. The rise and set times and moon illumiations.

The Moon moves about 15 degrees (almost a hand span) across the sky from from night to night. The side of the Moon toward the Sun is lit, so before full moon the left side of the Moon is the lit side. The right side of the moon is lit after full moon (reference Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand).

Moon Phases for 2022, New Zealand dates and times

New MoonFirst quarterFull MoonLast quarter
29 Jul 2022 5:555 Aug 2022 23:0712 Aug 2022 13:3619 Aug 2022 16:36
27 Aug 2022 20:174 Sep 2022 6:0810 Sep 2022 21:5918 Sep 2022 9:52
Date and times NZDT = UT + 13 hours
26 Sep 2022 10:553 Oct 2022 13:1410 Oct 2022 9:5518 Oct 2022 6:15
25 Oct 2022 23:491 Nov 2022 19:379 Nov 2022 0:0217 Nov 2022 2:27
24 Nov 2022 11:571 Dec 2022 3:378 Dec 2022 17:0816 Dec 2022 21:56

Fun Night Sky Activities

Make your own Planetarium Wheel

Design - Circle

Download and print a PDF to be able to make your own planetarium wheel. Use it to help you spot the constellations for any month of the year. You simply line up the date and the time of day.

Check out Sky Maps for further information.

Make a Star Globe

Download and print a PDF to be able to make a Hipparcos Star Globe. Provided by the European Space Agency.

Our Supporters

Thank you to all our supporters who have kindly provided free ongoing services & advice or have generously donated funds. You are amazing and the stars will shine a little brighter because of you.

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