Star Chart

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This weekend’s night sky


This Weekend’s Night Skies (27-28 June)

This weekend, let’s concentrate on the morning skies. As we approach the end of June Matariki is much easier to spot, low on the north east horizon just before the Sun rises.

By this time Scorpius/ Te Matau a Māui has moved to the west south western horizon, with the hook pointing upwards. On the opposite side of the sky is his arch enemy, Orion the hunter, rising directly east, with the three bright stars of his belt lying along the horizon. These are also known as Tautoru here in New Zealand.

If you follow these stars along the horizon to the right they point to Sirius or Takurua, the brightest star in the night time sky. Follow them to the left and you first come to a v shape forming the head of Taurus the bull, with the bright star Aldebaran marking his eye, and then to Matariki rising in the east north east.

Matariki, Tautoru, and Takurua, along with Rehua (Antares in Scorpius) form four pou, or the pillars that hold Ranginui, the sky father, in the sky. Matariki supports one of Rangi’s shoulders and marks the rising point of the Sun at the winter solstice. Takurua (Sirius) supports the other shoulder and is the closest bright star to the Sun’s rising point at the summer solstice. These two stars represent the extent of the Sun’s movement throughout the year.

Tautoru held Rangi’s neck and marks the celestial equator which runs along the length of Ranginui’s backbone. Poutu-te-rangi (or Altair) marks the other end of the celestial equator. These three pouare all in the East, but the fourth one stands alone in the West.

Rehua supports Ranginui’s lower torso. A line drawn from Matariki to Rehua marks the ecliptic; the pathway of the Sun, Moon and planets through the sky.These four pou form the basis of a celestial compass, a map of the night sky that was used to navigate the Pacific Ocean and bring our ancestors to Aotearoa.

Download July’s star chart


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