DIY observatory to bring astro tourism to Queenstown

Knowing more about the universe and the wonders in our night skies is big these days - thanks to technology and further discoveries by the likes of NASA.

But one astronomer near Queenstown wants to make the stars more accessible to the public.

Professor Brian Boyle has been capturing breathtaking footage of the starry skies above - all from his own mini-observatory.

“I like to call it the dark sky observatory but I'm not kidding anybody including myself, it's a shed with a roll-off roof,” he told 1News.

A local builder constructed it, Boyle’s own room with a telescopic view - a change in pace after teaching astronomy in Sydney for around 35 years.

“I retired from that. I decided to come over to god's zone country near Queenstown because I love the mountains, I love the lakes, I love the people and of course, I love the dark skies here,” he said.

He takes stunning time-lapse videos and remarkable photos from his front yard - then maps them out for the public to see.

“They've built me a wonderful little shed, not only to do my hobby but to share the love of my hobby with everybody else who cares to listen,” Boyle said.

A recent international study found that 80% of the world's population lives under polluted skies.

Now Boyle wants to turn his hobby into high-value tourism so people can learn more about what’s happening above.

“We live further south than 99.99% of the world's population which means in our skies the splendour of the milky way and central part of our galaxy rise higher and stay longer, we are closer to the south magnetic pole so we get more auroras,” he said.

He said the spate of headline-grabbing space exploits from the likes of NASA and SpaceX, and the images from the James Webb telescope, have made people interested in what's beyond our planet.

"I think there is a much greater awareness, understanding and participation in astronomy now fuelled by the technology that we have, everybody has smartphones that can take amazing pictures or more sophisticated activity."

So he’s teaming up with a winery business, Kinross, just a stone's throw away to offer tours starting next year.

“If we think about the Queenstown Lakes, Central Otago region and why it become famous in the first place was the absolutely awe-inspiring landscapes, the mountains, the valleys, the rivers, the skies and I think it's really cool that we have this interest that's drawing us back to this,” said Nicky Sygrove from the Kinross Winery.

She said the venture with Brian was a no-brainer since Covid-19, to offer other forms of tourism opportunities while enjoying what we already have.

"I think Queenstown is an area that draws really entrepreneurial humans who are doing interesting things, it's awesome to Brian [part of the community]."

Brian hopes his astro-tourism will give people a better understanding of the dark skies above Queenstown and even learn a thing or two, particularly around Matariki.

“I want them to take away a bit more knowledge about beautiful photographs of the night sky for themselves and take away some of the images that you can take with this telescope so it's almost like creating art together," said Boyle.


More Stories