. I have always been interested in space and the stars ever since I was a little girl.... I have a really strong memory of watching a documentary about space and the planets with my dad when I was about 8 and they were talking about how our concepts of time and distance have no bearing in space, and my dad told me that galaxies could be unbelievably huge or tiny, so tiny in fact that I could hold a whole galaxy in the palm of my hand if I wanted to. Then my dad took my arm and said that maybe I had dozens of galaxies living on my arm right now. From that moment I was hooked on anything to do with stars and planets and while I know nothing about the science of space, I find it so interesting. So as you can imagine I was really looking forward to going on the observatory tour.
We arrived in Tekapo at about lunchtime, booked ourselves into a campsite and went to get me signed up to the tour. Tom had decided that the observatory tour wasn't really something which he was interested in doing... so Dora was doing this adventure on her own. There wasn't really much to do in Tekapo so we went down to the lake and played at skimming stones again for the rest of the afternoon! Once we had eaten some tea, and I had been harassed by this little kid on the campsite who wanted money off me to use the internet, cheeky little bugger, it was time for me to head off for my trip. We got down to the office in town and I got signed in, given a lovely warm snow jacket because it was freezing, said bye bye to Tom and climbed on to the bus to go up the mountain to the observatory
. The bus journey up was brilliant because the lady driving was pointing out lots of things in the night sky like the International Space Station and telling us all the about the people and work that they did at the observatory. As we drove up the mountain and neared the huge dome telescopes the driver had to cut all her lights out on the bus and cover the dashboard lights in case the light emitted from them interfered with the telescopes. When we got to the top we all climbed out of the bus and into the pitch darkness. I had picked a brilliant night to do the tour, it was perfectly clear with not a cloud in sight and no moon, which meant we could see every star in the sky. We were then met by our guide for the night Chris. He was a fantastic guide and really made the whole an absolutely amazing experience. It was a very strange feeling though, being outside in the pitch blackness with not a light in sight, we weren't even allowed to put our cameras or phones on because, as he said "It would look like a new galaxy on the telescopes and might cause a bit of stress to the scientists"! Chris had a little red pointer light that we followed up to the very top of the hill. From here we all stopped and the guide climbed up onto a chair to teach us all about the stars which were out that night. He had a laser pointer which he would use to point out certain stars. The best past was when he asked us to point out which star we thought was brightest, we all pointed to the same one and were amazed to find out that it wasn't a star at all..
. it was Venus!! It was such a clear night we could see three planets without the aid of a telescope: Venus, Mars and Jupiter. I was so overwhelmed by it all I was quite relieved that it was so dark because I had a little cry. At one point we were looking at the Milky Way above our heads and then the guide pointed out two clouds to the left hand side. We all just presumed they were clouds but then we found out that they were the next two nearest galaxies to our own. At that moment I suddenly felt very small indeed. And for the first time so far I felt really homesick and I would have given anything to have had my dad there with me to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience. I couldn't believe that I had come all the way to New Zealand and I had got to see two galaxies with my own eyes. Once the guide had finished this part of the tour they opened up the rest of the grounds and we got to have a wander around. On the decking area they had three big telescopes set up and further down the path was the hugely powerful dome telescope which we could go and have a look through. On the outside telescopes I got to see Venus, which was like a blue twinkly half moon, Mars, which looked like a tiny orange star, and Jupiter and its moons. Jupiter was my favourite because I could see the big bands around it that are caused by storms on the planet. From here I went down to the dome telescope. Inside was one of the greatest sights I have ever seen. Peering down the eyepiece I saw a 'celestial nursery', which was home to thousands and thousands of baby stars being born
. It looked like a tarantula spider made up of millions of tiny little dots and connected by cotton-wool. It was so beautiful I could hardly breathe. Later I went back to the dome telescope after it had been moved to another location and I got to see a distant galaxy which was over 11 million light years away, it was incredible. We stayed at the observatory for about 2 hours moving between the different telescopes and asking questions to the guides. I was really impressed with all the guides, especially Chris, because they were so knowledgeable and could answer any question you could think of. They even managed to answer my questions about comets and what happens when stars die. When it was time to leave we all piled into the bus and the driver agreed to drop me off at the campsite so that Tom wouldn't have to come out to meet me. As we drove down the mountain the driver put some music on which she said she liked to listen to when had been looking into the night-sky. Over the speakers came Louis Armstrong "What a Wonderful World", and the next thing I knew the whole bus was in tears.
Well I knew it had to happen at some point and it happened this morning... I woke up with my first migraine of the trip. It was a real doozy; it woke me up at 6am and I was climbing the walls in pain until gone 9am. After falling back to sleep for a few hours we both woke up at about 11:30am and Tom decided to go out on one of the walks into the surrounding mountains. I was still feeling pretty ill so I stayed back at the van while Tom went for an hours walk along the Kea track which lead from our camp to the base of Mount Cook. He got back and looked like he'd had a brilliant time, he'd seen some small snow avalanches and got up close to Mount Cook. I was quite upset at not being able to go with him, but I was still feeling rough. After some breakfast we packed the van up and headed on to our next destination, Lake Tekapo about 2 hours away. There was only one reason we were going to Tekapo and that was because I had seen an activity I couldn't wait to do. At Tekapo they have one of the most significant observatories in the Southern Hemisphere and they offer guided tours of the night sky and observatory