New Zealand's Lake Tekapo Named Second Best Place to Stargaze in the World

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A meteor streaks past stars during the annual Quadrantid meteor shower in Qingdao, Shandong province, January 4, 2014. Picture taken with a long exposure. Picture taken January 4, 2014.
Residents of Western Australia from the eastern outskirts of Perth to the South West, were dazzled by a bright light in the sky on Mar. 9 at around 9.15 am. They thought that the light might have been a small meteor and ABC Morning Program received many calls regarding the same. IN PHOTO: A meteor streaks past stars during the annual Quadrantid meteor shower in Qingdao, Shandong province, January 4, 2014. Picture taken with a long exposure. Picture taken January 4, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

Lake Tekapo of New Zealand has been named one of the best places in the world to look at the stars. The New Zealand stargazing spot was outshined by Chile's San Pedro de Atacama based on user reviews of accommodation reservation website Booking.com.

Hundreds of users had endorsed the best places for stargazing and New Zealand's Lake Tekapo was recognised for attracting tens of thousands of visitors every year. Earth and Sky astronomy manager Kristian Wilson said Lake Tekapo's night tours have a 250-person capacity. The facility is an education centre with ties to Mt John University Observatory and Cowan's Observatory, New Zealand Herald reported.

Wilson said most areas in the Northern Hemisphere have too much light getting in the way of stargazing. The Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, where Lake Takapo is located, used special lightbulbs and shields for 30 years.

The facility makes the light shine downwards to preserve the clarity of the sky at night. Wilson explained that Lake Tekapo was surrounded by mountains and kept low clouds away. This results to clearer and sharper skies since the area is far from the ocean.

Chile was ranked higher than New Zealand because some areas in the San Pedro de Atacama had not experienced rain for years, which gave the place fewer clouds or none at all to block the view. Wilson said although many places for stargazing around the world are isolated, the Mt John University Observatory remains the most accessible spot as it was open to the public day and night.

Stephanie Hagen, owner of Lake Tekapo Lodge, said most of her visitors come from big cities in the Northern Hemisphere who may have never seen stars on clear skies before. She believes people are often interested in the South Cross and the fact that the stars are different from where guests come from. Hagen said some guests can get to see the Southern Lights or the Aurora Australis.

David Britten, Auckland Stardome astronomy educator, was disappointed that only one of the best stargazing spots in New Zealand was recognised. However, he was not surprised that New Zealand was included in the list because from his astronomical perspective, the country is in an ideal geographical location since east of the country is already the Pacific Ocean.

Ayers Rock in Australia's Northern Territory was among the top 10 at seventh place. The U.S. had three stargazing spots included in the list like Sedona, Flagstaff and Moab. 

Contact email: r.su@ibtimes.com.au