Look up at the nighttime sky and what do you see? If you're like most, the answer is probably not "stars," but the orange wash of streetlights reflected in the sky above.
Light pollution from ambient nighttime lighting is an unrelenting drain on energy reserves worldwide, and a problem that's growing at a rate of four percent annually. The consistent glare of illumination can adversely affect everything around it, including ecosystems and wildlife.
But at the Mount John Observatory in New Zealand, star-gazers can enjoy a crystal-clear view from Earth of the solar system above, due in part to the nearby township of Lake Tekapo, which increasingly powers down its ambient lights at night.
The observatory is part of a territory that was officially named an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2012, allowing guests to enjoy soaring and detailed views of the universe that we often forget our planet is a part of.
Below are some of the most breathtaking images of the area's brilliant nighttime sky, including some shots of its mythical aurora australis, or southern lights.