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Mt John Observatory is a haven for astronomers in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve. The six high-powered telescopes are normally only seen by researchers. Since 1965 Mt John has become a site of pilgrimage for astro-tourism. However, few guests get access to New Zealand's most powerful telescopes – let alone for the whole night.
"The Mt John observatory has been described as one of the prettiest places on earth, and I don't doubt this for a minute," says Dr Griffin of the scenically appointed research facility.
However, beyond the views of the Southern Alps and blue Lake Tekapo, it's the views after sunset that appeal to the astronomer.
"On a clear night the views are stunning, which is why the University of Canterbury has located an array of telescopes there to study the secrets of the cosmos," he said.
The experience for eight guests will include dedicated access to one of the country's largest telescopes and the guidance of Dr Griffiths and the observatory astronomers, from dusk until dawn.
Organising the event, managing director of Viva Expeditions Rachel Williams said it's just the kind of out of out-of-the-blue idea that appeals to New Zealanders looking for new experiences in their backyard: "They are looking for an experience that is different, outside the square, something truly memorable, this is that type of experience."
Four dates are on offer between March 19 and 22, with space for up to eight astro-tourists each night. See vivaexpeditions.com for more details.