How to find Matariki in the morning sky

Matariki becomes visible in the morning sky — for Wellington, it’s around the winter solstice. If you have a clear horizon looking straight at the sea, they will be visible earlier, around the 15th of June.

Finding Matariki is as easy as counting to three in te reo Māori.

Early in the morning in the south/east in late June, the brightest stars in the sky will be the Southern Cross and Canopus. The other stars, including Matariki, will start rising around 6-7AM.

The Southern Cross at this time of year is at its lowest position in the sky. When it is pointing down, the Southern Cross is also pointing directly south. From the Southern Cross, turn left and high in the sky you will see the beautiful star Canopus or Atutahi. You can’t miss it unless it’s cloudy as this star is the second brightest in the night sky. Canopus is halfway between the Southern Cross and Sirius.

1 Tahi. Once you find Atutahi we can start counting: Atu-TAHI (Tahi in te reo means one).

2 Rua. From Atutahi, we descend on the horizon to observe Sirius Takurua, the brightest star in the sky. Also if you wish to measure it from the Southern Cross, Sirius will be at the same height in the sky as the Southern Cross. Taku -RUA (Rua in means two).

How to find Matariki

3 Toru. From Takurua, keep turning left and you will find Orion’s belt or the bottom of ‘the pot. Tau-TORU (Toru in te reo means three).

How to find Matariki

Keep turning left. At approximately the same distance as Takurua, but on the other side of Tautoru, you will see the red giant Aldebaran or Taumatakuku.

Keep turning left. Very close to it, beautiful Venus adorns the morning sky in June 2020. You can’t miss Venus – it’s the brightest object after the Moon.

To the left of Venus, is Matariki at approximately 10 degrees. That’s an angular distance which is about the width of a fist held at arm’s length.

Congratulations! You found Matariki. Count the stars and see how many you can see!

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