This year, Aotearoa has its first public holiday for te ao Māori celebration, Matariki! Here are five facts about the celebration and the stars 🌟
- Matariki is a cluster, not a constellation. It has around 500 stars in it, we just see 6-7 of them with our eyes. It’s even one of the closest clusters to Earth, but it’s still 442.2 light-years away!
- Its reappearance in the sky (mid-winter, around June/July) is often the signal that the Māori New Year has begun. Some iwi celebrate the new year on the first Rākaunui full moon or next Whiro new moon surrounding the cluster rising. Iwi in areas with a restricted view of Matariki may also use Puanga (a star at the top of Tautoru Orion) to signal this.
- You can see Matariki yourself! If you find Tautoru first, then you can trace your way to the cluster. See this resource on how exactly to find it.
- Traditionally, Matariki is a time to honour whānau that have passed away and give their spirits safe transit into ngā whetū the stars. Matariki is also a time to reflect, whāngai i te hautapu feed the gods with a sacred offering, and be grateful for kai and the future harvests.
- Matariki was used to guide Tohunga Kōkōrangi expert astronomers and their waka across the Pacific Ocean. They used the horizon and stars as their compass.
If you and your whānau are looking for a way to celebrate, come see astrophotography projected onto MOTAT’s historical Te Wai Ōrea Western Springs Pumphouse. More info here.