To me that feels like a pretty special experience.
Who am I?
My name is Joseph Pooley.
I’m a born and bred Kiwi, having spent my upbringing around the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.
I began my first career as a car mechanic in the mid 2000’s, but over a decade later, after a couple of years living and travelling abroad, I returned to New Zealand having well and truly ignited my passion for photography (more specifically Landscape and Astrophotography).
In 2018 having spent a year or two in Auckland, still working in the motor industry but lusting for an opportunity to follow my dreams, I made a seemingly risky leap from the motor industry into tourism, after an opportunity arose which would turn my passion into a career.
I packed up my life once again and relocated to the Deep South, the beautiful Lake Tekapo, in the heart of Aoraki Mackenzie international dark sky reserve.
I spent a year and a half working as a professional Astrophotographer and training as an Astronomy tour guide with commercial Stargazing operators formerly known as “Earth and Sky” (Now “Dark Sky Project”). Dark Sky Project is now considered a world leader in Astrotourism.
During this time I also decided to further my education, so I enrolled to study a photography diploma part-time. This would serve to authenticate the technique that had previously been self taught, and help steer me further in the direction of commercial photography.
Unfortunately the dream stargazing job came to an end sooner than expected, as the COVID-19 pandemic made its way around the world in 2020.
Borders closed and international tourism came to a sudden halt, seeing indefinite and even permanent closure of many businesses and thousands of redundancies of tourism workers across New Zealand, including myself.
With much of the tourism industry still in hibernation for the foreseeable future, I decided to travel New Zealand with a group of friends & former colleagues for a few months of 2020, following the first nation-wide lockdown.
I eventually settled back in Lake Tekapo with the notion of starting up my own Astrotourism business. But what would be my point of difference? I needed a unique idea, different to that of the other big stargazing companies already established in the region. I needed a simple and viable business model.
After months of casually mulling over ideas with my friends in hostels, remote backcountry huts and over cups of coffee, it came to me at last, in a moment of clarity. The idea to offer mobile stargazing tours for small, intimate groups of people, hosted from private accommodation sites within Lake Tekapo and the broader Mackenzie region! Perfect!
I floated the idea with a number of accommodation providers throughout the community and the idea seemed to be a hit! What’s more is it seemed this was also a relatively untapped niche. It really seemed like an obvious activity to offer from the numerous “night sky” themed Airbnb cabins and villas popping up throughout the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.
So, I sat down and developed a business plan, then bought the best Telescope that my (at the time very little) money could buy, designed and printed some flyers and away I went, advertising and running exclusive stargazing tours for small groups of friends and family in private accommodation throughout Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Twizel, Ohau & as far south as Ahuriri Valley.
I received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from my clients and support from the community of accommodation and tourism providers in the region for going out on my own, against all odds and starting a viable tourism business in such an economically challenging era. This gave me such a huge amount satisfaction and gratitude as everything that I had conceived had fallen into place nicely.
Less than a year down the track, other educational tours were added to my repertoire, such as Astrophotography lessons and Photo editing tuition.
I even managed raise enough money in the first 6 months of operation to upgrade my telescope to one double the size, further adding to the value of the Stargazing experience.
It gives me a great deal of satisfaction being able to talk to people in small, intimate groups about astronomy or astrophotography, and guide their eyes around the night sky in an exclusive and relaxed environment where the tour is purely at their convenience.
To me that feels like a pretty special experience.
During star gazing tours I use a Celestron 8” Edge HD telescope.
This telescope is a Schmidt-Cassegrain design, using a primary mirror 8 inches in diameter to achieve a focal length of 2032mm, allowing viewers to see a bright optical image of planets and deep sky objects magnified over 150 times.
The telescope is attached to a computerized (Altitude-Azimuth) Go-To mount. This amazing device allows the telescope to be automatically pointed toward any chosen object in the night sky with almost pinpoint accuracy.
The name Alpha CruX
The name of my business “Alpha CruX” refers to the brightest star of the smallest and perhaps most iconic constellation to many nations of the southern hemisphere, the Southern Cross or “Crux” as it is known in Latin.
The Southern Cross has been used for many centuries by early explorers of many different cultures, to precisely navigate the southern hemisphere.
This cross shaped asterism was (and still is) used in conjunction with Pointer stars, Alpha & Beta Centauri, or alternatively Archernar, to locate the point in the sky known as the south celestial pole. This is the point in the sky representing the earth’s axis of spin and therefore rotates as the earth spins, however always remains on the same point in the sky. This point is then projected directly down toward the horizon, determining true south.
The Southern Cross features on the flag of many nations of the southern hemisphere, including New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Brazil.
The name Alpha CruX was contrived by combining two of the official names for the brightest star of the Southern Cross, Alpha Crucis & Acrux.
Acrux or Alpha Crucis is a triple star system at an approximate distance of 320 light-years from earth.
It appears to the naked eye as a single point of light however two of its component stars can be resolved with the use of binoculars or a small telescope.
It is the 13th brightest star in the night sky.