Astronomy has ancient connections to cultures around the world, including New Zealand, and this June, New Zealanders can celebrate their connection with the stars with the rise of a special star cluster and the beginning of the Māori New Year.
Matariki is the Māori name for the Pleiades star cluster. This group of stars is visible around the world, so it has many different names and myths and stories associated with it. The names the Pleiades and The Seven Sisters originate in ancient Greece, in Japan it is known as Subaru, Vikings referred to the cluster as Freyja’s Hens, and in scientific circles, it is called Messier 45.
The luminous Matariki cluster plays an important role in heralding in the Māori New Year and is thought to determine how successful the harvest crop will be in the coming season. The brighter the stars, the more productive the crop will be. Some iwi, or tribes, start celebrations when Matariki is first seen, however it is the first crescent moon after Matariki that officially signals the Māori New Year.
As part of the celebrations, Stardome is screening the popular ‘Matariki Dawn’ show, which introduces visitors to the astronomical and cultural significance of this spectacular group of stars. Visitors learn how to spot Matariki and are introduced to the animated tales of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, the story of Rona and the Moon and Tama Rereti and the Great Wala. In addition, Stardome is also screening the ‘Matariki Night Sky’ show that takes viewers on an exploration of the night sky with a Matariki twist. Take a fun tour of the stars and constellations visible in June and hear the stories that connect them together.
Matariki Dawn, 7pm Wednesay to Sunday in June
Matariki Night Sky, 4pm Saturday and Sunday in June
Adult - $12
Child - $10
Family (2ad, 3ch) - $40