Matariki is the Māori name for Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters, and is an internationally recognised galactic cluster that can be seen all over the world.
The rise of Matariki in the winter skies above Aotearoa is an important time in the Māori calendar, as it signifies the start of the Māori New Year, although not all iwi celebrate Matariki at the same time.
The Matariki Festival 2018 dates of 30 June to 22 July have been chosen to incorporate the lunar phases that will see the star cluster Matariki rise during the festival.
Impress your friends with these Matariki facts:
- In Māori, Matariki means mata ariki (eyes of the gods) and mata riki (little eyes).
- There are approximately 500 stars in the Matariki star cluster, but only a few shine bright enough to be seen with the naked eye.
- Matariki is 440 light years away from Earth but still one of our closest star clusters!
- Māori used Matariki to predict whether they would have a good harvest the next season, bright and clear stars indicated warm weather and a good harvest.
- The star Puanga (Rigel) rises earlier than the Matariki hapū (cluster) of whetū (stars) and from the shores of the Manukau Harbour its brightness makes it clearer to see during twilight. While all stars have significance at different times of the year, in this role it is Puanga that indicates the beginning of a new cycle on the maramataka (Māori lunar calendar).
- A popular Māori legend is that the seven Matariki stars are a mother (Matariki) and her six daughters – Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Waipunarangi, Waitī, Waitā, and Ururangi. Two other stars that have been identified are Pohutukawa and Hiwa i te rangi.
- Voyaging waka (vessels) crews used the Matariki stars to guide them across the Pacific.
How to spot the Matariki stars
Have a go using Te Ara’s guide to spotting the Matariki stars. Matariki is found low on the horizon in the northeast of the sky and is best spotted between 5.30am and 6.30am.
Everyone’s welcome to join us Matariki star spotting at the Matariki Dawn Karakia, 6am on 30 June at Arataki Visitor Centre, 300 Scenic Drive, Titirangi.
Park at 233 Scenic Drive to catch a free shuttle. Wear warm clothes. Go to matarikifestival.org.nz for more information.
Sources: tepapa.govt.nz and teara.govt.nz