9th June 2012: Aoraki Mackenzie Named World’s Largest
9th June 2012: International Dark Sky Reserve!
International Dark-Sky Association, TUCSON, AZ — Over 1,600 square miles of New Zealandʼs South Island have just been proclaimed as an International Dark Sky Reserve, making it the largest in the world. The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR), comprised of the Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin, is the fourth such dark sky reserve in the world.
International Dark-Sky Associationʼs Executive Director Bob Parks remarks, "The new reserve is coming in at a ʻGoldʼ level status. That means the skies there are almost totally free from light pollution. To put it simply, it is one of the best stargazing sites on Earth."
This weekʼs announcement coincides with the Third International Starlight Conference, a United Nations-led effort that emphasizes that a star-filled night sky is part of the common heritage of mankind and that protections are necessary to ensure that present and future generations will be able to see the stars. The new IDSR is playing host to the conference and sets a wonderful example for attendees.
Organizers of the new reserve recognize that the night sky has played a critical role in the areaʼs history as its first residents, the Maori, used the night sky not only to navigate to the island but also integrated astronomy and star lore into their culture and daily lives. The reserve seeks to honor that history by keeping the night sky as a protected and integral part of the areaʼs natural and cultural landscape. It is a perfect place to protect and honor those traditions as the IDSRʼs Mackenzie Basin has the clearest, darkest and the most spectacular night sky in New Zealand.
Outdoor lighting controls were first put into place in the area during the early 1980s. They have helped to minimize light pollution not only for the nearby Mt. John Observatory, but to conserve energy, protect wildlife and to make the area a popular stargazing destination for tourists. For the past several years increased efforts have been focused on strengthening these protections in the formation of the International Dark Sky Reserve.
About the IDSPlaces Program
IDA established the International Dark Sky Places conservation program in 2001 to recognize excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach. Since the program began, four communities, ten parks and three reserves have also received International Dark Sky designations.
To learn more about the IDSPlaces program,
please visit: http://www.darksky.org/IDSPlaces
Scott Kardel (IDA) firstname.lastname@example.org / 520.293.3198
Margaret Austin email@example.com / 64 274 923 244
An image for use by news media and additional information is posted at http://www.darksky.org/pressreleases
10th November 2011 The Winners of the Earth & Sky National Astronomy Speech Competition 2011.
A new educational initiative was trialled this year by Earth & Sky who hosted the first National Astronomy Speech Competition. The focus group was primary and intermediate school children. The format required the use of modern technology; teachers were tasked with filming the child’s three-minute speech which was related to anything astronomical. The speech was then up-loaded onto YouTube via a controlled up-load through Earth & Sky. This required parents of the students to grant special permission for their child to be on this public forum. A total of 28 submissions from children across the country, ranging from as far north as Warkworth and down to Oamaru in the south were received, along with two home-schooled children.
The competition was judged by Earth & Sky Senior Astronomy Guides, Earth & Sky Management and staff of the Canterbury University Mt. John Observatory. Allan Gilmore and Pam Kilmartin are professional astronomers who live at Mt. John Observatory and they are currently researching Near Earth Asteroids.
The judging panel enjoyed a challenging afternoon of judging the speeches. Criteria for the judges included confidence delivering the speech, demonstration of research, scientific accuracy, evidence of own observations and enquiry, enthusiasm and passion, and a structured beginning, middle and end to the speech.
The talent, confidence, knowledge and delivery of the wonderful speeches impressed the judging panel; it was apparent there are talented future astronomers, philosophers, toast masters and scientists among this great group of children.
You can check out all of the speeches on our YouTube channel:
Category 1. Age 5 — 7years
· 1st place: Stella Molloy from Takaka Primary
· 2nd place: Penny Ross from Fairlie Primary
· 3rd place: Harriet Compton-Moen from Selwyn House School, Christchurch
Category 2. Age 8 — 10
· 1st place: Fynn Hart-Hobman from Thorrington School, Christchurch
· 2nd place: Eileen Corcoran from St Josephs School, Fairlie
· 3rd place: Ella Stephens from Selwyn House School, Christchurch
Five additional awards have been given to children who showed a real passion or in depth knowledge of astronomy.
The Earth & Sky Guides Choice Knowledge Award goes to Harrison Craythorne from Thorrington School, Christchurch and Brendan Rowland from Fenwick School, Oamaru.
The Earth & Sky Future Philosopher Award goes to Peter McHale from Warkworth Primary School.
The Earth & Sky Future Astronomer Awards go to Luka Reardon who is homeschooled in Lyttelton, and Angus Munro from Fairlie Primary School.
Thank you to all the children, teachers and parents who assisted in the development of this exciting competition, we hope to see more children sharing their knowledge about space, the universe and beyond in the 2012 National Astronomy Speech Competition.
Information about Earth & Sky and Mt. John Observatory, Lake Tekapo:
Canterbury University and Earth & Sky negotiated a public "outreach" opportunity and opened up the Mt. John Observatory site to enable people to visit, learn, view, experience and enjoy a special encounter with astronomy and nature. Mt. John is internationally recognised not only as New Zealand’s centre of Space research but is also the most beautiful, easily accessible observatory in the world. Situated one thousand feet above Lake Tekapo and only eighteen minutes driving time from town, it has an uninterrupted 360-degree panorama of giant mountains, lakes, rivers, ancient glacial deposits, vast tussock grasslands and many other attractions &mdash plus it sits below one of the clearest skies in New Zealand. As well as the sealed access road there is a very popular public walkway linking Mt John with the village and lake below.
A unique glass Astro Café has been built around the Bamberg building on the summit where people can relax, view and "observe" both by day and night — and enjoy good coffee and refreshments.
During the day regular tours depart from this point and introduce visitors to the MOA project and its large, impressive telescope. There is also the chance to view solar activity and sun spots through a special telescope and also search for stars and planets visible during the daylight hours — subject to clear skies. There is also the opportunity to learn about the southern sky, plus local history, geography and geology — and if anyone wants to be an Astronomer — full information on the various courses available at Canterbury University.
Special early evening Twilight Zone tours operate each day to introduce visitors to the Sunset hours on Mt John — to view and experience the Sun as it bids farewell while nature paints her ever-changing colours. Visitors can watch and explore the first stars and planets as they begin to appear in the darkening sky and enjoy some informative lectures with fine local fare and refreshments.
The comprehensive starwatching night tours operate from Mount John every good weather night and use a 40-cm Meade telescope for public viewing in the 16-inch dome, along with other smaller associated telescopes. These evening astronomy experiences are very popular with both national and International visitors and are enjoyed by many thousands of people each year.
Earth & Sky Ltd., P.O. Box 112, Lake Tekapo 7945, New Zealand.
Phone: +64 (0)3 6806960 Fax: +64 (0)3 6806950
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