Keep an eye on the sky at Space Place

No trip to Wellington is complete without a visit to Carter Observatory, home of the historic Thomas Cooke telescope and a digital, full-dome planetarium

The Milky Way over Carter Observatory

Where

Kelburn

Location

40 Salamanca Road
Kelburn

Contact

+64 4 910 3140

Nestled on the edge of Wellington Botanic Garden at the top of the cable car, step inside and you’ll learn about planets, galaxies, stars and constellations via interactive galleries and exhibits, and discover more about the Southern Hemisphere’s star groups.

Looking up is interesting year-round simply because our stars are constantly changing as the earth rotates.

Cooke refractor at Carter Observatory
Couple walking to the entrance of Carter Observatory
Tuhura module game at Carter Observatory
Carter Observatory planetarium

Watch out for the classic Greek constellations like Capricornus and Scorpius upside down, find out how to spot New Zealand’s own groups of stars, like the “Pot” and Maui’s Fish Hook, which can be seen towards the end of the year.

Look out for the Southern Cross if you’re from the Northern Hemisphere, which can only be seen in the Southern Hemisphere because of its position in the Milky Way. While much of this can be learned through the exhibits, it’s worth taking in a planetarium movie, which ends with a presentation of New Zealand’s night sky by a Space Place presenter.

This state-of-the-art digital experience in the full-done planetarium is part of the ticket entry price and is highly entertaining – sit back and recline in comfort while you’re taken on a virtual space journey through our solar system and beyond.

There are a range of movies to choose from, so schedule your visit to coincide with the one you want to see, or go on a whim.

Try to time your visit with a Space Place late night – it is open until 11pm on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays to give visitors the rare chance to view the southern skies through the historic Thomas Cooke telescope, weather permitting.

You will enjoy the thrill of seeing the likes of the moons around Jupiter and rings around Saturn on a clear night through this 150-year-old telescope. Though they don’t appear year-round there’s always something fascinating to discover by looking upwards!

In the adjacent galleries, you can take in the sheer scale of the universe and its origins in the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, feel the rumble of a rocket launch, find out about when man landed on the moon and even touch moon rock!

You can also discover the Māori story of creation, the significance of Matariki and the role of the star cluster for the Māori New Year, and watch a short video of the Māori legend of how Māui tamed the sun.

If you’ve got children, they’ll love the junior astronaut zone, an interactive space station exhibit where you can land a space shuttle, learn about life on a space station and the tasks that make it challenging.

Carter Observatory telescope
Whanau Day 2015 at Carter Observatory

Due to private tours for school groups during term time, Space Place is only open to the public on weekends (and the three late nights), though during school holidays it is open daily from 10am-5.30pm.

For those who love the planetarium, sci-fi movies are scheduled monthly, and for budding stargazers, Space Place holds regular courses to quench that thirst for knowledge.

Overall, it doesn’t matter if you’re a family or a couple, or how old you are, spend an hour or two meandering through Space Place and you’re guaranteed to be wowed!

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