Have you seen seven bright stars “Matariki” – “god’s eyes” appearing on the horizon?
This Monday night is the Matariki celebration in New Zealand where a view of seven glittering stars reappears in the early morning sky of the southern hemisphere in the Māori New Year.
In Western culture, the stars on Matariki are generally regarded as winter scenes – they are known as the Pleiades or “Seven Brothers”. In Māori culture, Matariki means “eye of the god” and refers to the legend of Matariki and “his six sisters”.
The reserve since 2012 consists of Aoraki / Mt. Cook the National Park and the Mackenzie Basin, although the area has limited light pollution since the 1980s.
What is the Matariki celebration?
Matariki – Māori New Year – is now celebrated everywhere throughout New Zealand. According to Maramataka – the Māori lunar calendar – the reappearance of Matariki in the night sky closes the old lunar year and marks the beginning of the new year.
Although various legends still exist, Matariki is most important for understanding the season time for planting, harvesting, and hunting.
It is estimated that if the Matariki star looks bright in the morning, a warm and productive farming season will follow.
When is the Matariki live star watching event?
The “live stargazing” program will be broadcast live from Takapō / Lake Tekapo in the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Nature Reserve on July 21 in New Zealand, which translates to Monday, July 21 at 18:30 BST, 13:30 EST and 10:30 PST .
The Dark Sky International Reserve Aoraki Mackenzie is one of the three Dark Sky Reserves in New Zealand, although earlier this month the country received The first Dark Sky Park, Wai-iti Recreation Reserve and Tunnicliff Forest – henceforth known as the Wai-iti Dark Sky Park – also on the South Island.
Monday’s star observing event will explore the myths and legends of Matariki and the importance of the awakening of the seven stars. It will be hosted by Israel Dagg, a former New Zealand rugby union player, along with “traditional sky navigator” Pirirpi Smith.
Matariki / the Pleiades: science and stars
Also known as “Seven Sisters” and M45 and Matariki, the Pleiades (pronounced “Player-deez”) not in fact “the eyes of God.” They are a collection of seven bright stars that are close together, together making one of the closest and brightest star clusters to us at a distance of 444 light years.
The Pleiades stars are all hot type B stars in the constellation Taurus. There are seven bright stars in the Pleiades – known in Western culture as Alcyone, Atlas, Electra, Maia, Merope, Taygeta, and Pleione, although there are about 100 stars in total.
Although Matariki refers to the Pleiades as a whole, the Alcyone star is also referred to directly as Matariki and signifies reflection, hope, connection to the environment and gathering of people. The other six stars – her daughter – are called Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Waipunarangi, Waitī and Waitā, and Ururangi.
The Pleiades can now be seen from the northern hemisphere by looking northeast at midnight (see roughly above Venus).
Matariki / the Pleiades throughout the world
The “Seven Sisters” stars are very famous and celebrated by many cultures around the world, where – as in New Zealand – they have various names.
- “Matariki” in Māori culture— “eye of the god” or “eye of the head.”
- “Subaru” in Japan— “gathering together.”
- 昴 mǎo in China— “Western white tiger hairy head.”
- “The iheḍ cat” in northern Sahara— “the girl that night.”
- Krittika in Hinduism – related to the war god Kartikeya.
- “Makali’i” in Hawaii— “the eyes of a noble family.”
Every culture has a story about the Pleiades. “In a completely dark sky, the constellations really stand out, so it’s not surprising that the Pleiades have worldwide significance for many cultures,” said Professor Nigel Henbest, co-author of See the stars 2021 Philip: A Month-by-Month Guide to the Night Sky. “In South America, the Pleiades’ appearance – whether they look foggy or not – is used just in time when they grow potatoes, which requires a lot of moisture.”
See stars from the southern hemisphere
That is something you need to do at least once in your life.
Step under the equator and you will be greeted by a series of constellations, bright stars and amazing sky objects that can only be seen from this latitude.
This is paradise for connoisseurs of stars.
While the north pole faces outward to the Universe outside, the south pole points toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy where brighter stars are located, more constellations containing more objects. That is why astronomers have chosen the southern hemisphere to build the largest and best land-based telescope.
We wish you a clear sky and wide eyes.