The Milky Way galaxy aswirl over Wairarapa is set to open eyes across New Zealand and the globe to the majesty of truly dark skies.
Mark Gee, the reigning Royal Observatory 2013 Astrophotographer of the Year, yesterday released for the launch of International Dark Sky Week a short film titled City Lights To Dark Skies.
The film was set to a piece of music called Nocturne 1985 by Rhian Sheehan, and aimed to showcase the night skies of Wellington and Wairarapa, where Gee last year captured his title-winning image of the Milky Way hanging low over the Cape Palliser lighthouse.
The visual effects supervisor at Weta Digital told the Wairarapa Times-Age he had been involved in astrophotography for the past six years and Wairarapa was where he spent most of his time capturing his specialist images.
He shot portions of the film during overnight jaunts to Wairarapa, including footage captured from the spine of the Tararua Ranges on Alpha Peak, and from Glenburn on the South Wairarapa coast.
The film uses time-lapse photography, he said, which he hoped would bring into sharp focus the loss to light pollution of night-sky views around the world.
"I spend a lot of time photographing the night sky and have seen many of the negative effects that light pollution can have. So I thought one of the best ways to educate people about light pollution would be to show them the difference between a light-polluted city sky and a dark sky with little or no light pollution," he said.
"The footage was shot around the Wellington and Wairarapa region on the North Island of New Zealand. We are very lucky here as the light pollution around Wellington itself is nowhere near as bad as it is in larger cities such as New York, London or Sydney."
He said the capital was surrounded by hills "so a lot of the light pollution is contained within, and you can travel just 20 minutes out of the city centre to find skies dark enough to view the Milky Way".
"I also travelled to locations with varying degrees of dark skies. From locations with moderate light pollution to the darkest of skies miles from anywhere in the Wairarapa - it was an interesting exercise to see what is visible in the night sky as you go from place to place."
He earlier said Wairarapa had a dark sky more than equal to the internationally gold-rated Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve - the first and only such reserve in New Zealand - and he would back any call to make Wairarapa a dark sky reserve.
Gee said he had spoken to numerous people around the world who had viewed his work and "was truly shocked when some of them said to me they have never seen the Milky Way with their own eyes before".
He had since discovered that more than a fifth of the world's population, two-thirds of the US population and half of the EU population had lost naked eye visibility of the Milky Way.
Gee branded the night sky blindness "a real shame" and urged people to stargaze beyond city boundaries during International Dark Sky Week.
"It can be a truly humbling experience, especially if you haven't done it before. It's certainly a release for me from everyday life. After all, life without dark skies - you don't know what you are missing."
International Dark Sky Week runs until April 26 and aimed to inspire people to celebrate the beauty of the night sky and raise awareness of the effects of light pollution.
See the video below and for more information on International Dark Sky Week go online to darksky.org