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Gt Barrier now a hot-spot for stargazers

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 22/06/2017

Stargazers are likely to see Great Barrier Island in a new light after it was named one of the world's best places to look upon the heavens.

Also known as Aotea, the island in the Hauraki Gulf, is only the third place to be awarded International Dark Sky Sanctuary status.

On a clear night, it is possible to see about 5000 stars from the island or about 10 times as many as can be seen from Auckland, residents say.

Great Barrier Local Board chairwoman Izzy Fordham says while residents often take the incredible beauty of its skies for granted, the award is very exciting.

"It gives me great comfort to know our pristine skies will be protected for the future," she said.

The island now joins sites in the US and Chile as the world's only dark sky sanctuaries.

Astronomer Nalayni Davies, together with members of the island's Awana Rural Women Group, led the push to gain sanctuary status.

Ms Davies began taking measurements of the night sky in the Auckland region after last year becoming alarmed by a report that found it was increasingly hard to see the Milky Way from many locations around the world.

When she got to Great Barrier, "she couldn't believe what she had discovered", Ms Fordham said.

With no street lights and a large slice of the island under the guardianship of the Department of Conservation, there is very little light pollution.

"We have no mains power, no reticulated septic systems. We are all stand alone independent so we rely on solar wind and back up generators for our power," Ms Fordham said.

Aoraki-Mt Cook and the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island is New Zealand's only other place recognised by the International Dark Sky Association.

It became a Dark Sky Reserve in 2012 and is one of 11 reserves recognised around the world.

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