- Visiting Us
Planetarium shows, prices, and how to find us
- About Us
Our heritage and our people
- Māori Cosmology
Overview of various elements of Māori cosmology reflected in the exhibition at Carter Observatory
- Inspiring our Community
Describes the community work that Carter Observatory is involved in.
- Sustainability Statement
Read Carter Observatory's sustainability statement
- Stories about Carter
What the media are saying
- Media Releases
Media Releases written by Carter Observatory
- Our People Stars
Introductions to the key staff at Carter Observatory
- Māori Cosmology
What's coming up
- Venue Hire
Corporate events & birthday parties
School programmes and resources
- Contact Us
Various ways you can contact the team at Carter Observatory
Fly Through Space at Carter
Take a virtual journey through space in Carter's Pelorus Trust Planetarium - a state-of-the-art full-dome digital theatre, then take your own steps through space as you walk through the world-class interactive multimedia space experience.
Discover our Universe, along with some of New Zealand's most prestigious telescopes and astronomical artefacts.
The History of Carter Observatory
Carter Observatory is New Zealand's longest-serving national observatory. Carter's name commemorates Charles Rooking Carter, who gifted £2,240 from his estate to the Royal Society of New Zealand to establish an astronomical observatory in Wellington for the benefit of the people of New Zealand. Parliament established the Carter Observatory in 1937 and it opened its doors in 1941.
Carter became a base for astronomical research in New Zealand. Work began with solar investigations and when new staff joined during the 1970s it expanded to include variable stars, galaxies and asteroids. Carter Observatory became New Zealand's National Observatory in 1977.
Carter Observatory celebrated its 70th birthday on 20 December 2011. Learn more about Carter's history here.
In 1992 the Goldern Bay Planetarium was relocated from its Harris Street location to the Carter Observatory site. The Golden Bay Planetarium was opened in 1978 by Sir Keith Holyoake, then Patron of the Wellington Planetarium Society. The original planetarium was sold to the Northland Astronomical Society in Whangarei, to make way for an expanded planetarium.
In 2005, the New Zealand government commissioned Professor Mike Bessell to review Carter and to explore New Zealand’s requirements and the opportunities in astronomy and space science research and education.
Carter Observatory curates and maintains three main telescopes:
The Thomas Cooke telescope is a beautiful, historic 9 3/4-inch refracting telescope that is routinely used as the main telescope for visitor viewing at Carter.
Please note: telescope viewing is weather-dependent.
The Ruth Crisp telescope is a reflecting telescope reserved for research purposes by staff and the local astronomical community. It arrived as a donation in the 1960s.
Carter also operates the nearby Thomas King Observatory. Local astronomers maintain its 12.5 cm (5-inch) telescope, made in 1882 by Grubb in Dublin. This observatory is available for public stargazing sessions, run independently of the opening times at Carter. Wellington Astronomical Society kindly lend us their expertise in this smaller observatory.
Our Most Recent Transformation
Professor Bessell's report kickstarted Carter's transformation into a world class visitor attraction and education facility.
Thanks to funding from the New Zealand Government, Wellington City Council, New Zealand Lotteries Grant, and the Pelorus Trust among others, a revitalised Carter opened its doors on 27 March 2010.
The Carter Observatory Act of 1938 which established an astronomical observatory in Wellington, was repealed in May 2010 and at that time Carter Observatory became an asset of the Wellington City Council.
In September 2011, further exhibits were installed completing the refurbishment. Carter Observatory now stands proudly as a key visitor attraction for Wellington, an important educational facility and impressive event venue.
Carter Observatory is owned by the Wellington City Council and is managed as part of the Wellington Museums Trust. As such, our annual report is included in the Wellington Museums Trust Annual Report.
Carter Observatory receives an annual contribution toward operational costs from the Wellington City Council and a contribution of from the Ministry of Education to run its LEOTC programme.
Most of our income is derived from admission, venue hire, education and special groups and programmes and further supported by donations.
2011 - Qualmark Enviro Bronze Award
2012 - Wellington Gold Awards finalist in the Vibrant Award category
2012 - Winner eTourism Awards 2012 award for best attraction / activity / tour Online Presence