Mt John Observatory at Lake Tekapo

The observatory is set up at Lake Tekapo for academic purposes as a result of a grant to the University of Pennsylvania from the US National Science Foundation.

This was the chosen location as it met the criteria for an observatory site, which were:

  • a large number of clear nights
  • a dark sky not polluted by artificial light from any nearby town/ city
  • a site reasonably close to power, water supplies and main roads and not too far from a major city.

Tekapo is known for its clear night skies and people from all over New Zealand and the world head over to view it. There are plenty of  starlight tours that guide you though the observatory and many day tours inside the observatory.

For those of you who view this just as a research unit and are enrolled at UC in the Physics and Astronomy Department, you could book a telescope for your research if suitable. Follow this link for more details. 

Does anyone remember the Penguin Scale?

UC Penguin Scale: Quigley, Sandy, Rolly, Rocky, Wobbly, Silty, Wavy, Trembly, Shakey, Quakey

UC Penguin Scale: Quigley, Sandy, Rolly, Rocky, Wobbly, Silty, Wavy, Trembly, Shakey, Quakey

Not everyone will remember these guys but this is a story worth telling…

During the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes many people in the region came up with their own scales for measuring the strength of aftershocks. At Canterbury University we made up our own Richter-alternative called the Penguin Scale. Every time the ground shook a few of the wooden penguin ornaments (pictured above) would end up on the floor. However many penguins landed on the ground gave us our measurement and it was just amazing how accurate they were! The gang of penguins is still located on campus.

I’ve heard of other creative scales too like turtle scales and beer bottle scales. If you had your own scale I’d love to hear what it was.

Here’s a quick reminder of what to do if an earthquake occurs while you’re on campus.

  • Drop, cover, hold
  • Do not try to move while the ground is shaking
  • If outside – stay outside, do not enter buildings or facilities. Take shelter clear of buildings, trees, power lines or other potential hazards
  • When shaking has stopped, and or fire alarm has activated, evacuate building immediately if inside. If outside, go to the nearest holding area or Ilam Fields if safe to do so
  • Follow UC staff instructions
  • Await instructions from UC Security or Emergency Personnel
  • DO NOT pass back through campus
  • DO NOT isolate yourself, stay with others

The University has an Emergency Management website that you should be familiar with. If an emergency or campus closure occurs and you’re waiting for info from UC, please monitor local radio stations, your UC email and the UC website.

TEU essay competition

Do you want to win $1,000? Who doesn’t?!

This is your chance to win The Clara Immerwahr Prize from the Tertiary Education Union (TEU)! All you have to do is write an essay on the role of conscience in science and technology development, application, and commercialisation.

The prize winner will present her or his winning essay to a forum in Christchurch and Dunedin. Travel, accommodation and meal expenses will be paid in addition to the award.

All entries must be received by 1 June 2015 at 5pm. Send your essay to

You essay must not exceed 3,000 words including footnotes and references. All students full or part time currently enrolled at CPIT, Lincoln University, Otago Polytechnic, University of Canterbury or University of Otago are eligible.

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