I went to the night tour at Mount John which is one of the best places for stargazing in the world. It was mesmerizing.
I reached the tour office a bit earlier, they operate a bus from office to take people to the top of the mountain. There was another lady from London on the english tour that day and it was only two us which gave us plenty of time during the tour to look through galaxies. When the bus started to go up the hill near the observatory driver turned off the light, he told us that the telescopes are light sensitive and the bus lights cause light pollution, it was scary to see him driving without lights on the mountain.
Our guide was very energetic probably his day had just started, I think the guides at the observatory are university students. It was dark and windy up there and we were giving red flashlights and told that red light does not cause pollution. Right over our heads milky way was visible and moon was too bright making the fainter stars harder to spot. After the round of introduction guide quickly told us about the history of the observatory. He had this laser light which he used to point to stars, light of beam going very high and pin pointing the objects in the sky, it was very impressive. It was like the sky was the screen where power point presentation was going on and he used his laser and pointed to the stars in constellations and all in real time on real sky and real stars. Then without wasting time he took us in the dome, where they had the giant telescope which was used for research few years ago and now only used for the tour and while talking to us he set the telescope at some planet and told us to have a look and the english lady went first and as soon as she looked in the telescope she screamed wow, It was planet Saturn and we could see the rings around the planet, it was thrilling. We were looking at the real saturn, then we looked at Jupiter with four moons, giant ball of gas and four moons orbiting around it and the last star we saw from the giant telescope was one which was about to go supernova, it was few thousand light years away. He told us that they know it has already gone supernova but the light has not reached earth yet so we are still looking at the past and light could reach us any time between today and next eight thousand years.
They have one cafe on top of the hill which is called as Astro cafe and is surrounded by all the telescopes. They gave us hot chocolate which was a minor relief to the cold and windy night. I asked our guide to show the oldest thing in universe, he thought about it and then asked the other guide to set the smaller telescope placed outside the cafe to some star, I don’t remember the name now and said have a look and it a faint white dot and told that this star is 11 billion light years away. Then he showed us a different galaxy and it was like million white dots on a black paper. It was cluster of 20 million stars. There was so much information he was giving and it was beyond imagination while experiencing it and giving it a moment to sunk in. I was thinking I just looked at another galaxy which is million of lights years away and trying to imagine the distance (give it a try)
Finally he showed the brightest object in the sky that night, the moon. It was stunning, we could see the craters on the moon and the surface and it was truly beautiful.