To better understand the nature of the universe we live in by experiencing the Earth and sky through research, education and environmental appreciation.
Earth and Sky Ltd was established in 2004 by Graeme Murray and Hide Ozawa. That same year Nagoya University of Japan (working alongside several universities in New Zealand, including the University of Canterbury) were proposing to establish a new research telescope on Mt John. Hide and Graeme kindly supported the completion of the project. As a result of this, Earth and Sky had exclusive commercial and tourism access to Mt John for their new venture, to be known as Astro-tourism, and to provide public astronomy outreach on behalf of the University of Canterbury.
From very small beginnings Earth & Sky now hosts more than 35,000 visitors per year to its stargazing and observatory tours. The rapid company growth reflects a sustainable and successful organization.
In the early days of the café, it started with just a caravan on the summit of Mt John. In 2007 a steel and glass building was constructed. The Astro Café has now grown to be a very popular destination with over 200,000 visitors each year. During the day there are day-time tours of the observatory available. Visitors are able to view New Zealand’s largest telescope – the MOA (Micro-lensing Observations in Astrophysics). On a clear day, stars can be sighted and views of the sun can safely be seen using a solar scope.
"Possibly the best location for a café on the globe."
— The Lonely Planet
With the growth of day-time visitors to Mt John, the additional pressure from vehicles on the Mt John access road has had a major impact on the road surface and condition. As the road is privately owned and operated, Earth & Sky and the University of Canterbury combined forces to implement a road user fee to recover the on-going cost of maintaining the road. The contribution from visitors will see that the road has a sustainable future allowing for safe and continued access for future years.
In June 2012, a 4,500km2 region of the Mackenzie Basin became an International Dark Sky Reserve – now known as the ‘’Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve’’ and was awarded gold status by the IDA (International Dark-Sky Association).
The night-time stargazing observatory tours still remain the ‘star attraction’, as many people in the world are no longer able to see stars because of the growing light and air pollution
Earth & Sky guides provide the commentary for their night tours in English, Japanese, Cantonese and Mandarin. Earth & Sky also offer heavily subsided tours for the education sector; including tours for international students.
"Earth and Sky has provided an excellent service in educating others to appreciate the wonders of our universe."
— Trip Advisor review, visited May 2016
"A well-organised, well-run, enjoyable and informative tour with bonus hot chocolate!"
— Trip Advisor review, visited April 2016