Friday nights in winter, the Townsend Observatory in the Christchurch Arts Center is open from 8 pm, weather permitting, for anyone to view the night sky through their 6″ telescope. The ‘scope itself is a seriously cool contraption – interesting to look at in its own right, as well as for what you can see through it. Built in 1864, it is an equatorially mounted refractor, with a mechanical weight drive.

The observatory is in a tower located in the South Quad of the Christchurch Arts Center, accesible by some rather steep, winding, narrow stairs. There is a dome on the tower that retracts and then rotates.

Each year a student from the Physics and Astronomy department at the University of Canterbury is appointed the Townsend observer. Typically several students show up each Friday to point the scope at the objects of note, and to provide information and answer questions.

Also notable is the old fashioned orrery on view part of the way up into the tower. This is a Copernican Planetarium, which shows the  movement of the planets relative to each other and the sun.


Galaxies intersecting