The man who turned his home into a portal to the stars


Evening descends and Sutherland is swathed in darkness. One by one, the stars come out to swallow the night. Jurg Wagener focuses his telescope. He’s in the optimal location for stargazing in the southern hemisphere. The skies above this small town are cloudless for most of the year. Below celestial vistas, infinity begins.

Every evening, Wagener observes the cosmos. No two nights are the same here. Newborn stars. Magellanic Clouds. Far-away planets. Wagener is continuously rediscovering thrilling sights with his array of telescopes. When the skies are crystal clear, he can see the Andromeda Galaxy with the naked eye. “Stargazing is absolutely number one in my life,” Wagener says. “This is my love, this is my work.” To share the awe-inspiring experience, he set up an observatory at his home in the Karoo. At Sterland, as it’s called, people gather to gaze into the skies, their worries dwindling beneath its magnitude.

Twenty kilometres away, at the renowned South African Astronomical Observatory, one of the largest telescopes in the southern hemisphere opens its eye to the Milky Way. Here, stardust meets the soil. “Whenever you look up in the sky, you enjoy the magic universe,” Wagener says. By day, the natural surrounds of Sterland add to the beauty of the small town – boulders fading to purple at sunset, swallows dashing past. But when the lights go out, the wonders of the world come alive.