40 Salamanca Road, Kelburn
Sitting on one of the high ridges in Wellington’s Botanic Gardens, Space Place at Carter Observatory is a quick cable car ride from Lambton Quay. Step inside and you’ll learn about planets, galaxies, constellations and the Southern Hemisphere’s star groups through interactive galleries and exhibits.
A state-of-the-art digital experience in the full-dome planetarium is part of the ticket entry price. Held throughout the day, shows are both entertaining and educational. Sit back and recline in comfort while you’re taken on a virtual space journey through the solar system and beyond.
Most screenings have a storytelling element and interactive star show. Watch out for the classic Greek constellations like Capricornus and Scorpius. 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. If you’re from the Northern Hemisphere look out for the Southern Cross. Because of its position in the Milky Way, you can only see it in this part of the world.
Try to time your visit to Space Place later in the evening. It’s open until 11pm on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. This gives visitors the chance to view the southern skies through the 150-year-old Thomas Cooke telescope. On a clear night, you might experience the thrill of seeing the moons around Jupiter or rings around Saturn through this telescope. Though they don’t appear year-round there’s always something fascinating to discover.
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 humans landed on the moon, and even touch a 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. For children, there’s a junior astronaut zone with an interactive space station exhibition.