New Zealand’s “Park in the Sky”

The Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. Photo: Neil Gardner

The diverse New Zealand landscape is among the most beautiful in the world: pristine beaches, rolling green fields, awesome mountains. But residents in Tekapo aren’t so much concerned with what surrounds them on the ground, they’re much more interested in preserving what shines down from above.

The small South Island town of about 800 people is on a mission to receive UNESCO’s approval to become the first starlight reserve, an idea first generated four years ago. Locals have been darkening their Canterbury town since 1965, and have since restricted lighting use within a 19-mile radius of the town. Today residents use low-energy sodium streetlamps and household lamps that face down. Even the local skating rink installed special lighting that prevents ultraviolet rays from reflecting into the night sky, according to the Associated Press. The AP also reports that more than two-thirds of people in the U.S. and about one-fifth of the world’s population cannot see the Milky Way from their homes, a statistic that the folks of Tekapo hope to change.

For more places to see the night sky, check out other Dark Sky Destinations.

Photo: Neil Gardner