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Matariki stars (reappearance)

02 Jun 2015

Our Subjects / Ā Mātou Kaupapa:
Māori, Science

Why do the Matariki stars reappear at a certain time of year?

LEVEL: Intermediate / Secondary

The Matariki star constellation (also known as Pleiades) moves around the sky during the year, slipping below the horizon in April and reappearing in the dawn sky in late May or June. In astronomy, this first visible appearance of a star cluster after a time of being invisible, is called the heliacal rising

There is some information about the heliacal rise of the Matariki stars in the booklet produced by the Māori Language Commission in 2010. From their homepage, click on the link 'Publications' on the left, and scroll down to Matariki. You can download a copy of the Matariki booklet from the link on the top right of the page. Look for the page 'When is Matariki?'

The Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand has an education website which also explains this. Just type your keyword 'Matariki' into the search bar and select the second result 'Matariki' to read about the role of astronomy in Matariki and the heliacal rising.

Try using keywords like heliacal rise or heliacal rising and Pleiades or Matariki to search on DeeperWeb

HOT TIP: DeeperWeb is a search engine a bit like Google. We like DeeperWeb because the ‘tag cloud’ on the right suggests search words that will help ‘build’ a search. We can also use it to narrow our results to educational resources or to sites with .org or .govt in the website address.

We also recommend EPIC, a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics. It’s put together especially for New Zealand school students and helps to answer questions like this. Choose Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre and use keywords like Matariki, astronomy, Pleiades and heliacal to find lots of info.

HOT TIP: To get to the EPIC databases you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or, you can log on to between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday, and one of the librarians can help you online.

Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Before they adopted the Gregorian calendar, Māori looked to the movement of stars to distinguish the different seasons, and these were linked to the Māori lunar calendarTe Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand has a story about the Māori lunar calendar   Maramataka and you will find this listed under the section titled 'Earth, sea and sky'.

HOT TIP: Another place to look is Wikipedia which has great coverage of many topics, including Matariki and heliacal rising of stars . But you need to be aware that this information is contributed by lots of different people. If you are using this site, it always pays to check the information against that on other sites or in books from the library. Also remember to check the references at the bottom of the Wikipedia article.

To explore further, check out our other ManyAnswers entries about Matariki

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