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Astronomy is the study of the universe, including the solar system, stars and galaxies.


Aotearoa New Zealand’s first people were the Polynesian ancestors of Māori who used the stars to navigate the Pacific Ocean on their voyage to New Zealand. Māori recognised several star patterns and planets, and planted crops by the moon. Matariki is now an official holiday in New Zealand.


The first European astronomer in New Zealand was Captain James Cook. He was employed in 1769 to observe the transit of Venus from Tahiti, before sailing to New Zealand. He mapped the new country using the stars to calculate longitude and latitude.

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Mt John University Observatory is New Zealand’s only professional research observatory for optical astronomy. It was founded in 1965. 

We recommend the following book: 

Mt John – The First 50 Years: A celebration of half a century of optical astronomy at the University of Canterbury

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