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Matariki

June 25th, 2019

This week is the time to be observing Matariki in the morning sky. Because the Māori calendar is based on the cycles of the Moon rather than the Sun, the exact dates vary from year to year.

According to tohunga kokorangi Professor Rangi Matamua, there are two astronomical events that are used to calculate the optimal period for Matariki observations:

(1) The "heliacal rising" of Matariki, when the star cluster rises in the east just before sunrise.

(2) The Tangaroa phases of the Moon, starting just before the third quarter moon and lasting four nights.

Matariki observations and celebrations begin in the Māori month of Pipiri (roughly corresponding to June) when the Moon is in Tangaroa-ā-mua, the 23rd day of the lunar cycle. Observations last for four nights; celebrations continue until the last day of the lunar cycle.

In 2019 this means we need to be looking for Matariki from June 25th and celebrating until July 3rd, although events around the Waikato have been planned from June 14th to July 28th. For information about these events, see https://matarikiwaikato.nz.

To find Matariki you'll need to get yourself out of bed around 6 am and hope for clear skies. Town lights make it difficult so it's best if you can get out into the country, but it's still quite possible to see even with street lights in the way. If lights are a problem, block them with your arms or anything else you can find.

Look to the east, where the Sun is about to rise, and look for the three stars that make up Tautoru (Orion's Belt, AKA The Pot). From there, look to the left and find the triangular group of stars called Kōkota (Hyades). Keep going left until you see the small group of stars that are Matariki (Pleiades).

To learn about the stories behind each of the nine stars of Matariki, Spark has teamed up with Professor Matamua to provide a free service at 0800 MATARIKI. Dial the number and follow the instructions to hear different kōrero.

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