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The views of the night sky in the Aoraki Mackenzie district will be celebrated next month, during the Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival.

Stargazers and astronomy fans are expected to gather at Tekapo and Mt Cook village from October 13-15 to celebrate the area’s night sky through a variety of speakers and shows.

The event’s keynote speakers include Nasa scientist Dr Natalie Batalha, who was named as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time Magazine in 2017.

Dr Batalha will discuss the possibility of finding potentially habitable environments in space in the not-so-distant future.

Award-winning filmmaker and photographer Mark Gee will also feature in the festival line-up with a lecture and video presentation.

Prof John Hearnshaw, from the University of Canterbury’s physics and astronomy department, said organisers were “extremely lucky” to have the two keynote speakers for the festival.

“We hope the varied programme will attract all sorts of people, from international visitors and academics to amateur astronomers and families with school-age children.”

The majority of the festival’s activities will be held at Hermitage Hotel in Mt Cook Village. Other events will be held at the nearby Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre and Digital Dome Planetarium.

Some events will be held in other parts of the Mackenzie district, including Tekapo.

The Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin is home to Mt John Observatory and the southern hemisphere’s first International Dark Sky Reserve.

The creation of the dark sky reserve means all of the infrastructure in the 4300sqkm zone has been designed to limit the light pollution, giving enough light to the area without shining it into the night sky.

The Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival will run from October 13-15. For more information, visit www.starlightfestival.org.nz.