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Carter Observatory

Learn about the origins of the universe, get your hands on rocks that have fallen directly from space, and take a journey to the outer reaches of the solar system.

Combining the most interesting elements of Māori, Polynesian and Western astronomy, the Carter Observatory offers a fascinating insight into space, our solar system and planets, and the origins of the universe. With a digital planetarium, a collection of some of New Zealand's most ancient telescopes, and myriad interactive exhibits, there is no shortage of things to do and learn here.

The observatory's first gallery is home to displays dealing with the origins of the universe and the Māori story of creation, while the Solar System gallery houses the impressive digital orrery (a model of our solar system) and the Gibeon meteorite, a 7-kilogram stone which fell on Namibia in prehistoric times. You’re free to touch the Gibeon meteorite to get a sense of the sheer weight of this lump of nickel and iron, as well as the Chinese meteorite also on display in the gallery.

No trip to the Carter Observatory is complete without a visit to the planetarium. A variety of shows run throughout the day, each focusing on a different aspect of space exploration. Sit back, relax and prepare to feel pretty insignificant, as the planetarium show takes you on a whistle-stop tour of the great beyond. After the show, stick around for the live shows during which the observatory's astronomers discuss the skies during the time of your visit. The planetarium also runs shows for younger children; check the observatory's website for more detailed information and schedules.

During the Carter Observatory's late-night sessions, visitors can take a look through the Thomas Cooke telescope. Depending on the conditions, you may be able to see Saturn or even Mars through this powerful telescope.

The Carter Observatory is situated in the Wellington Botanic Garden, a short walk from the cable car, in the area of Kelburn. There is a bus stop nearby along Upland Road and plentiful parking near the Cable Car Museum. The observatory is open every day except December 25th and 26th.

Guide to Exploring Carter Observatory