Matariki - Puanga


Cosmodome brings to life the stars of Aotearoa/New Zealand. We can watch Matariki (the Pleiades) rise as it does around the winter solstice every year. We can take you on a journey to the pleiades and get a close up look at this magnificent star cluster filled with hundreds of glowing hot, young, blue stars. You will understand the extreme importance of this event for Maori and Polynesian people throughout history and its relevance in our culture today. Visit our resources page for more on Matariki.

What is Matariki?

The Maori new year begins with the first dawn rising of Matariki (in some cases the star Puanga) and the following new moon (in some cases the full moon) marks new years day. This is the Maramataka (lunar calendar) and has been one of the many uses of Ranginui (the heavens) for Maori people ever since arriving on these shores. It marks the time for the winter solstice, a time for planting and storing food. Celebrations can vary depending on predictions for the coming winter weather and predicted harvest. In modern day Matariki means many different things for people and is generally seen as a time of reflection and contemplation for things to come. Different iwi will have different starlore and tradition surrounding this ancient knowledge.

Navigating by Matariki

At the time of Orongo/November, Matariki is in our skies all night long and is therefore a useful navigational tool alongside a myriad of other stars. Learn how to navigate by the stars and see things that our forefathers saw and understood.

Where is Matariki

At the time of Matariki, the star cluster is in the morning sky in the East. You will need to get up well before sunrise and looking due East you will notice three stars in a row. This is Tautoru/Orions belt. Above these stars you will see Puanga/Rigel. Tautoru points to the right at Takurua/Sirius and to the left to Matariki.

Matariki is a faint cluster of stars and depending on the weather conditions you may not even know you are looking at it at first. Use a pair of binoculars to show up hundreds of stars in the cluster.

The Science of  Matariki

Also known as M45, the Seven Sisters, Subaru and many other names around the World. Matariki is an open or galactic star cluster and contains up to 500 stars closely held together. To astronomers, the stars are relatively young, at around 100 million years old (compare this to our Sun which is 4.5 Billion years old). Astronomers have learnt a lot about the evolution of stars by studying open star clusters such as Matariki. Our Sun was once a part of a cluster like this. The stars are noticeably blue in colour and that tells us they are very hot stars as the cooler ones are redder in colour.

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