Astronomy & Geology Events

Wairarapa:                                            Astronomy Events 2017
The Phoenix Astronomical Society meetings are at the Stonehenge Aotearoa site. This allows us (weather permitting) to hold an observing session after the meeting. 
Public welcome to monthly TPAS meetings but please introduce yourselves, donation appreciated. You must register beforehand for observing sessions:


7 Star of Bethlehem w
7pm Thursday December 21, at Stonehenge Aotearoa

December 22 is the time of a solstice – mid-summer in the southern hemisphere, mid-winter in the north. But 2000 years ago, this solstice occurred on December 25. At Stonehenge Aotearoa we have put together a special presentation on legends associated with the solstice: what was the ‘Star of Bethlehem’; who were the ‘Three Kings’; and just who were those ‘Shepherds watching their flocks by night’? Who was ‘Father Christmas’ and why did Rudolf have a red nose? In this presentation we look at the astronomical events and astrological meanings that lay at the foundation of one of the world’s great religions.

The programme includes a shared meal and, weather permitting, viewing the Sun set over the Summer Solstice Heel Stone. Bookings are essential. Phoenix members free. Non-members: Adults $15, Seniors $12, Children $8.



Friday 19 to Sunday 21 January, at Stonehenge Aotearoa

This will be the 30th annual Stardate held in New Zealand! Book your place today.

Stardate 2018 is a three-day convention for people interested in astronomy, geology and viewing the night sky. It caters for people of all levels of knowledge with a range of talks, workshops, kids’ programmes, field trips, movies and observing sessions. A large variety of telescopes will be available to explore the wonders of the Universe. Stardate also includes feasting and live music. It is the place to meet other people and share ideas.

 Stardate will be held at the grounds and lecture theatre at Stonehenge Aotearoa. The site provides spectacular scenery and near perfect observing conditions. Plus there are lots of interesting places and activities nearby – vineyards, seal colony, ballooning, swimming, boating, walking tracks, cycling tours, etc. The programme runs on 19, 20 and 21 January but attendees will be able to arrive earlier or stay later by arrangement. Camping and caravans is the order of the day. Barbecues will be available. For those who do not wish to camp or caravan, full details of local accommodation are available on our website.  

Registration fees for 3 days are $45 for adults, $30 for young persons between 10 and 18 years, $5 for children under 10. There is an additional $10 fee for each camp or caravan per night. To book or for further information, please email Kay at, or phone 06 377 1600.
Day Pass fees are  $20 adults, $15 seniors, $5 school students.( Day passes begin at 10am or in time for the field trip and end at 4pm, do not include evening observing).

Friday  19th Evening      Chair: Geoff Palmer

5:30pm   Barbecue
7:00pm   The Trapezium   Presentation by Richard Hall
8:00pm   Tea/Coffee   
8:15pm   Upcoming Lunar Eclipses   with  Ian Cooper

8:35pm   Destination Mars   Presentation by Josh Gross
9:25pm   Summer Night Sky (audio visual)
10:00pm Laser Tour of the Night Sky with Ian Cooper
Followed by Telescope Viewing
11:00pm Late Night Movie

Saturday 20th  Morning   From 10:30am
Wine Tasting at Gladstone Vineyard or Castle Point Fun Fair with Geoff Palmer   
11:00am Ancient Tales - Tour of Stonehenge Aotearoa with Richard Hall

Saturday Afternoon         Chair: Ian Cooper
2:00pm Children’s Astronomy Programme with George Moutzouris
3:30pm Plate Tectonics, Mantle Plumes and Magmatism on Earth Presentation by Professor .John Gamble

4:30pm Group Photo and Telescope Trail with tour guide Ian Cooper
5:30pm Barbecue

Saturday Evening  Chair: George Moutzouris
7:00pm    What the Heck?! - Unexplained Mysteries of the Universe   Presentation by James Smith
8:00pm    Tea/Coffee
8:15pm    Mysteries of the Mayans   Presentation by Kay Leather

9:15pm    Listen to the Stars     Music with Stefan Brown, Doctor Rob, Piripi & Bernadette Whaanga
10:00pm Telescope Viewing & Late Night Movie

Sunday 21st Morning

9:30am         Putangirua Pinnacles Field Trip with Helen Hawk  & Richard Hall

Sunday Afternoon   Chair: Trish Green
3:00pm Buy & Sell Market with Kay Leather and Bernadette Whaanga
4:00pm Worlds around Red Dwarfs   Presentation by Edwin Rodley
4:40pm Time Travel – The Possibilities     Presentation by George Moutzouris
:30pm Barbecue

Sunday Evening  Chair:Richard Hall
7:00pm    Stardate 1988 to 2018 – a celebration of Stardate’s 30th year    Presentation by Ian Cooper
8:00pm    Tea/Coffee
8:15pm    The Great Astro Quiz with Edwin Rodley and Felicity Kirkham

8:45pm    Visions of the Cosmos followed by Telescope Viewing

Stardate  will be held at the grounds and lecture theatre at Stonehenge Aotearoa near Carterton . The site provides spectacular scenery and near perfect observing conditions. Plus there are lots of interesting places and activities nearby – vineyards, seal colony, ballooning, swimming, boating, walking tracks, cycling tours, etc.  The program runs on 19, 20 and 21st of January but attendees will be able to arrive earlier and/or stay later by arrangement.  Camping and caravans is the order of the day. For those who do not wish to camp full details of local accommodation are available on our web site. Registration fees are $45 for adults. Young persons (10 to 18 years) $30, children (under 10) $5.  For those staying on site there is an additional fee of $10 per tent or caravan per night.  To book or for further information please email Kay at, or phone 06 377 1600, or visit our web site

Stonehenge Public lectures 2017

Use the Stonehenge booking system for Henge events
Full details of local accommodation are available on the accommodation subpage under Booking Your Visit.
book now-782
The Zodiac - Signs in the sky, Saturday 25 November, 7pm
To those who can read it, the night sky is a picture book of stories from antiquity. Here are the tales of the gods, heroes and mighty events. These stories are a window into the past that give us insight to the beliefs of our ancestors. Among the most ancient and significant stories are those of the Zodiac. In this presentation we explore the historical facts, myths and legends of the Zodiac which formed a cornerstone to the rise of civilization and world religions. Bookings are essential. Fee: Adults $15, Seniors $12 and school students (primary and secondary) $8
Stardate 2016                       
DSC 0758 DSC 0775 DSC 0062

If time allows, everyone who attends Stardate can go on a guided tour of Stonehenge Aotearoa free of charge. Many of 2016 attendees chose to do so.

IMG 1620
IMG 1621 IMG 1622 Crux and CentaurusA

Sigurd Magnusson took this shot of the Milky Way over Stonehenge Aotearoa

Milky Way over Stonehenge
Photos by
Katrina Borthwick
Sigurd Magnusson
Ian Cooper
Edwin Rodley

Photos taken on Friday 8 - Sunday 10 Jan 2016 - Attended by 80 adults plus children. Many thanks to all those involved in this very successful event including organisers, speakers and participants.
Book early for Stardate 2018 to secure a place. 

Tour of the Planets Review
During the weekend of 13th to 15th of May, just under 40 people enjoyed a comprehensive tour of the solar system.   While the skies had been stunning for weeks prior to the event, unfortunately wind and clouds prevented the use of telescopes over this time.  Never-the-less the excellent presentations, personal learning, social connections and in-depth discussions created an enthusiastic buzz that participants will long remember.
Friday evening saw presentations covering all aspects of the solar system from the oldest Greek astronomers, to the latest discoveries and the many different types of worlds and objects it encompasses.  A sturdy group of long-lasters stayed for a late night sci-fi fix when observing had to be cancelled.
Into the weekend proper, Saturday morning started early with the kid’s astronomy lead by George.  The number of kids was easily matched or exceeded by the number of much older individuals.  Saturday was very busy with talks on solar storms and their enormous impact on our planet and issues with global conservation.  A voyage to the Ice Giants was then presented including the current hunt for the elusive ninth planet, far out in the distant reaches of the solar system.
Ian Cooper again amazed participants with his knowledge of the oppositions of Mars over the years and Richard followed this up with an in-depth examination of Mars from the past to the present.  Delving into ancient cultures and records, Louise Thomas explained the development of many of our modern units of time and the division of the year into months, weeks and days.  Why is the week 7 days rather than 6, why not a five-day week?
Saturday's presentations were rounded out by Kay's exposition, delving into the wonderful jewel that is Saturn.  We were treated to the latest theories about the rings, a look at the moons and an examination of the planet itself.  For most people the evening then ended with a laser tour of the night sky lead by Ian.  The laser danced around the clouds and at times we could not help but be impressed when he told us that a certain star or constellation, was right up there just behind that cloud.  Finally, a few intrepid stalwarts hunkered down to enjoy historical sci-fi with a viewing of "The Thing."
The next day rolled along and there we were, Sunday already.  An exciting section of the programme still to go.  Ian began proceedings with an in-depth look at comets.  He looked at their origins, features, and some of the historical drawings and photos explaining how people reacted to these portents in the sky. 
The final day continued with the exploration of the dwarf planets, focusing mainly on Ceres and Pluto.  Edwin amazed the audience with photographs and explanations of the most recent visits to these tiny worlds.  The final fate of our own star was expertly covered by Dr Dennis Sullivan in his explanations of White Dwarfs and some of the related bizarre objects out in the stellar garden of our galaxy.
Once again Richard moved to the presenter’s podium and delivered a treatise on Jupiter, explaining how it is more like the sun than just another planet.  We looked at the "sub-solar-system" it commands and how these moons are each unique and fascinating.  We viewed rings and electromagnetic fields and how these phenomena create an environment dangerous for mankind, but possibly harbouring life.
Throughout this weekend the meal times and tea and coffee breaks provided opportunities to question and discuss the presentation topics and other astronomical practicalities.  These social times are in many ways as important as the formal programme itself and were enjoyed by all who attended.  Cameron Smart followed the afternoon tea with a historical look at the development of radar and radio astronomy by New Zealanders since its earliest times.  We learned about war time secrets and how in some ways New Zealand led the world is areas of radar development.
Rounding out the weekend Kay took us on a tour of the newest discoveries for solar systems beyond our own.  The presentation of exo-planets and how they were found in the late 20th century, through to the latest sophisticated technologies looking for these amazing worlds.  Kay's talk finished the weekend on a high note that tickled the imagination and made one want to enjoy another weekend like this in the future.
Finally, I would like to express thanks to all the presenters and quiet background workers who made this amazing weekend so much of a buzz.  Congratulations to all those who enjoyed the weekend and a note to any who missed, make sure you keep your eye on the calendar for future events.  This really was a brilliant experience.
Paul Curry

Review by Louise Thomas:

OPENING HOURS (seasonal)
Open 10am to 4pm:

For further details: click here

 Private Tours can be arranged on any day at a time by appointment.




Phone: (06) 377 1600
Postal address: P.O. Box 156, Carterton 5743
Street address: 51 Ahiaruhe Road, R.D.2 Carterton, 5792
visit us